VA Receives 6.5% Increase in Budget

It’s no secret that the Department of Veteran Affairs has been upgrading and changing to adapt into a 21st century organization.  They’ve created an online system for applying and tracking veteran benefits, and they have been pushing to get rid of the huge backlog plaguing the VA.  In their efforts to continue to transforming, the President has proposed a $163.9 billion budget, a 6.5 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2014, which will support VA’s goals to expand access to health care and other benefits, eliminate the disability claims backlog, and end homelessness among veterans.  In the President’s budget, $95.6 billion will be allocated for mandatory programs, such as disability compensation and pensions for veterans.  The other $68.4 billion is to be used in discretionary spending, largely for healthcare.

“This budget will allow us to continue the progress we have made in helping veterans secure their place in the middle class,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “It is a tangible demonstration of the President’s commitment to ensuring veterans and their families have the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

Approximately $3.1 billion of the $68.4 billion in discretionary spending is medical care collections from health insurers and Veteran copayments.

“We remain committed to providing veterans the opportunity to pursue their education, find meaningful employment and access high-quality health care,” Shinseki added.  “From the men and women of ‘the greatest generation’ to the veterans who have returned from our most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one deserves it more.”

The VA puts one of its top priorities in health care. It is shown through their works, as the VA operates one of the largest integrated healthcare systems in the country, with nearly 9 million enrollees.  The VA’s health care system has the ninth largest life insurance program in the nation.  It handles monthly disability pay, pensions and survivors payments to more than 5.1 million beneficiaries of monthly pay, pensions and survivor benefits.  It also handles education assistance or vocational rehabilitation benefits and services to 1.2 million students, handles mortgage guaranties to over 2 million homeowners, and runs the largest cemetery system in the nation.  The VA’s health care system is a very ambitious one.

Many of President Obama’s highlights from the 2015 budget request involve Health Care.  The VA’s health care system will receive a budget of 59.1 billion in 2015, including collections.  VA is due to provide care to over 6.7 million patients in the fiscal year beginning on October 1.  The patient total includes of 757,000 people whose military service began after September 11, 2001.  Some of the more major categories for spending with the health care budget are $7.2 billion for mental health, $2.6 billion for prosthetics, $561 million for spinal cord injuries, $229 million for traumatic brain injuries, $238 million for readjustment counseling, and $7 billion for long-term care.

Another large part of the President’s proposed budget would be that care and other benefits are available to Veterans when and where they need them.  There are many programs that will expand access under the proposed budget.  One of the programs is $567 million in telehealth funding, which helps patients monitor chronic health care conditions and increases access to care, especially in rural and remote locations.  The budget also adds $403 million for health care services specifically designed for women, an increase of 8.7 percent over the present level. A $534 million budget would be set aside to continue on-going major construction projects, and an $86.6 million budget would be set for improved customer service applications for online self-service portals and call center agent-assisted inquiries.  A $3.6 million budget would be added to open two new national cemeteries in Florida and prepare for the opening of two new rural national veterans burial grounds.

The President’s proposed budget is also aimed at helping the VA implement the Veterans Benefits Administration’s robust Transformation Plan, a series of people, processes and technology initiatives that will help the VA get rid of the backlog.  The plan will continue to systematically reduce the backlog and enable the department to reach its lofty goal of eliminating the disability claims backlog by the end of 2015 and process claims within 125 days with 98% accuracy.  The proposed budget for helping the VA reach its goal is $312 million.


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