Implementing the Recovery Act
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides the Department of Veterans Affairs funding of $1,408,200,000 to improve its medical facilities and national cemeteries, provide grants to assist States in acquiring or constructing State nursing home and domiciliary facilities and to remodel, modify, or alter existing facilities in order to furnish care to Veterans, to hire and train temporary claims processors, to pursue needed information technology systems initiatives, to administer one-time payments of $250 to eligible Veterans and their survivors or dependents, and to oversee and audit programs, grants, and projects funded under ARRA. The ARRA also provides for an additional, estimated $700 million for the one-time $250 economic recovery payments. Additional information about each Recovery program is provided below.
The ARRA provides $1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) NRM projects and Energy initiatives. Of this, $399 million will be used for energy priorities (projects incorporating energy efficiency and renewable energy) and the remaining $601 million will be used for NRM priorities.
The focus of these NRM projects is to correct, replace, upgrade and modernize existing infrastructure and utility systems for VA medical centers. Projects include, but are not limited to, patient privacy corrections, life safety corrections, facility condition deficiency corrections, utility system upgrades, and improvements related to mental health care. Projects have been developed and are planned for initial obligation in the next few months.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects will encompass all stages of energy development from detailed feasibility studies through construction. These contracts will include utilization of technical experts as well as the manufacturing of equipment such as building control systems, energy generation equipment, and various construction supplies. The expected economic impacts include increased jobs and activity as contractors supply the labor and materials to install and commission renewable energy and energy efficient systems.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides financial assistance to the States to construct or acquire nursing home, domiciliary and/or adult day health care facilities. VA may contribute up to 65 percent of the cost of construction or acquisition of State nursing homes or domiciliaries or of renovations to existing State homes.
Through the ARRA, VA's Grants for State Extended Care Program will help jumpstart the economy in 23 states by creating and saving construction jobs. Under this program 49 new construction and renovation projects for State Veterans Homes are planned.
The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) honors Veterans with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service to our Nation. NCA maintains more than 2.9 million gravesites at 128 cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. NCA has identified projects for the $50 million in ARRA funds for (1) national shrine projects to raise, realign, and clean headstones/markers and repair sunken graves at various locations across the country; (2) projects for repairing roads, buildings, and other cemetery infrastructure at locations nationwide; (3) equipment purchases for cemetery operations; (4) projects that conserve energy and water through the use of wind turbines, solar power and other measures; and (5) repairs to historic monuments and memorials at national cemeteries.
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will utilize the $150 million to employ approximately 1,500 claims processors. While some employees will be hired on a permanent basis, the majority will be temporary employees. Temporary employees will assume responsibilities that allow fully trained employees to focus on the core elements of claims processing, thus speeding completion of claims determinations. Permanent employees will receive VBA's existing new employee training curriculum and be retained as other permanent employees attrite.
The ARRA provides for a one-time payment of $250 to eligible Veterans and survivors to help mitigate the effects of the current economy. VA estimates making $700 million in payments. VA is working in coordination with the Social Security Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board, and the Department of the Treasury to make these payments beginning in June 2009.
The Department will primarily utilize ARRA funds to provide software development, staff, and associated supplies and equipment to support implementation of the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). Remaining funds will support upgrades to other VBA systems.
The ARRA provides $1 million for the Inspector General to audit and investigate applicable VA programs, grants and projects receiving ARRA funds and to perform necessary oversight.