Tuesday, June 16, 2009

House Appropriators Approve Increases for Veterans’ Programs

June 16, 2009 – 4:50 p.m.

A House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday approved a $132.3 billion spending bill for the Veterans Affairs Department, military construction projects and other programs in fiscal 2010.

Of that amount, about $78 billion would be discretionary spending, nearly 7 percent more than in fiscal 2009 and $239 million more than requested by the White House. The Military Construction-Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote.

Approximately $109 billion of the overall total would go to the Veterans Affairs Department, 15 percent more than the amount appropriated for fiscal 2009 and equal to President Obama’s budget request.

The Veterans Benefits Administration, which pays out financial assistance, would receive a total of $56 billion, about 19 percent more than it received in fiscal 2009 and the same level as the president’s request.

Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards , D-Texas, stressed the need to hire more veterans claims processors.

“Knowing that veterans who have served our nation and answered Uncle Sam’s call when called, they should not have to wait six, eight, 10 and 12 months to get their earned benefits,” he said.

Accounts for the Veterans Health Administration, which runs the veterans’ hospital system and other programs, would receive $45.1 billion, roughly 11 percent more than the amount appropriated for fiscal 2009, also matching Obama’s request.

The legislation also would include money for veterans’ health programs in fiscal 2011, a move that would put the politically sensitive programs on a two-year budget cycle, making their funding more predictable.

The portion of the bill dealing with the Defense Department — primarily for military construction projects, family housing and base realignment and closure — would decrease by 7 percent in fiscal 2010, with a total of $23.3 billion. However, that spending level would be $317.7 million more than the administration’s budget request.

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