News for Veterans July 1, 2011
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
June 6, 2011
Background: The term NHL includes a number of different conditions that may be categorized differently under various medical classification systems. Recently, VA expanded its definition of NHL to include chronic lymphocytic leukemia and small-cell lymphocytic lymphoma, two conditions that VA previously contended were unrelated.
CLICK HERE for a copy of VA's decision
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the panel's first spending bill for fiscal 2012, a $142 billion measure to fund military construction and veterans' affairs program.
"We're going to do our best to report it to the floor on Tuesday and start debating it," Inouye said after the markup.
However, that scenario is unlikely, as Democratic leaders indicated later Thursday that they want to move other legislation to the floor next week.
Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the committee's top Republican, called Thursday's markup "an important step toward our shared goal of enacting 12 individual, responsible appropriations bills in a timely manner."
The measure includes $72.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below President Obama's request and $618 million less than current funding. It also includes $69.5 billion in mandatory funding.
The bill would provide $2.6 million less than the version that the House passed (HR 2055) earlier this month, said Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois, the top Republican on the Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee.
Both versions would provide $52.5 billion in advance appropriations for VA health care accounts in fiscal 2013.
If the Senate passes the bill, members from both chambers are expected to achieve a swift compromise over the minor differences in conference.
South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson, chairman of the Military Construction-VA Subcommittee, said the legislation is "lean, disciplined and responsible."
"The bill is critically important to our troops," Johnson said, adding that he is hopeful the full Senate would consider the bill in July.
Kirk added, "This is a very good bill. It has strong bipartisan support. It is ready for the Senate floor, which I hope would be as early as Tuesday."
For the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the bill would provide $58.6 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2012 --- $181 million below the president's request. It also includes about $69.5 billion in mandatory funding for the VA, matching the administration's request.
The bill would spend $4.9 billion for health care and other social programs for veterans who are temporarily and chronically homeless. That includes $939 million -- matching the president's request -- for programs meant to help homeless veterans find temporary shelters and long-term housing. About $202 million would go toward the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, or HUD-VASH --- a program touted by the Obama administration and the VA as a means of reducing the number of homeless veterans by 2015.
Reducing the veterans' homeless rate has been a top priority for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has vowed to ensure that the department provides housing for every veteran by 2015. His goal is backed by the leaders of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs panels, who secured an increase of $50 million for the HUD-VASH program as part of the fiscal 2011 spending deal (PL 112-10).
This year there are about 76,000 homeless veterans, according to the VA.
"In a very difficult budget atmosphere, this bill provides solid investments in some top VA priorities," said appropriator Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs panel. "But it will always take sustained investment to meet the needs of our veterans and I look forward to continuing to work with the Obama administration to build on what have been record increases in funding for veterans' care."
The bill also would provide $250 million to expand access to VA health care in rural and remote areas, matching Obama's request. It would provide nearly $3 billion for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury treatment for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. And programs to assist women veterans would get $270 million, as requested, in the legislation.
The bill would provide $13.7 billion for military construction, which is $1 billion below Obama's request and $2.9 billion less than the fiscal 2011 enacted level. The bulk of this decrease, Kirk said, was due to a cut in funding for 23 military construction projects.
The measure includes $258.8 million for the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which concludes in September. That total is $1.9 billion below the fiscal 2011 enacted level.
The total for military construction includes $11.1 billion for projects ranging from operations training facilities to schools, hospitals, barracks and clinics for active-duty and reserve military personnel. That amount is about $1 billion below the president's request for the active-duty component.
Before approving the bill, the panel adopted a manager's amendment sponsored by Johnson that would require reports from the administration on bases overseas, the Veterans Benefits Management System and the West
Los Angeles VA Medical Center.
Source: CQ Today Online News
S.277 : Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011
VA expects the Custodial Agent to launch in August and to commence full operation in the fall. For more information, see today's entry on VA's VAntage Point blog (blogs.va.gov) and the Open Source EHR Custodial Agent website (www.osehrca.org).
To view all VA recent press releases go to: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/
"In keeping with our commitment to deliver timely and high quality benefits to our Nation's Veterans, VA strives to keep Veterans, their families, and the public informed about the performance and productivity of VA's regional offices, which administer benefits," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "This new effort expands the Department's commitment to public transparency by sharing performance and productivity data in the delivery of benefits, including compensation, pension, vocational rehabilitation and employment, education, home loans, and insurance."
VA announced last year its ASPIRE for Quality initiative, aimed at making data and outcome information available to the public in such areas as acute care, ICU, outpatient, safety and annual process measures, and how each Medical Center measures up to quality goals.
"VA is committed to making performance and productivity data available to ensure VA is accountable for the timeliness and quality of the benefits we provide to our Nation's Veterans," said VA Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.
The expanded ASPIRE for Productivity website provides information on how VBA and its regional offices are doing in relation to Department goals. The site specifically depicts how each of the regional offices measures up to productivity and other claim processing goals.
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