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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

 

Administration Seeks Record VA Budget Increase

Feb. 7, 2000, 08:00:00 AM

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The White House today delivered to Congress the largest increase in discretionary spending for veterans ever proposed by any President -- $1.5 billion for 2001.

"With this budget, the President signals the Nation's continuing commitment to her veterans, their families and the selfless professionals within this Department who assist them," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Togo D. West, Jr. "The median age of the Nation's veterans is about 58, and more than nine million are at least 65 years of age. As they age, their health-care requirements and the assistance they need from VA increase dramatically. The President's budget recognizes this and responds to it."

VA's 2001 budget would provide $48 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2000. It will fund benefits and services for millions of eligible veterans and family members. There are 25 million veterans and 44 million family members who are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services. The budget's priorities include:

  • Improved access and service in health care to reduce appointment waiting times;  
  • Enhanced standards for patient safety;  
  • Full funding for new emergency and extended care benefits;  
  • Adding more than 1,000 claims processors since 1999;  
  • Funding for more federal and state veterans cemeteries;  
  • Preservation of national cemeteries as shrines to our veterans. 

Medical Programs 

The 2001 request contains $20.9 billion for medical care. This is a 7 percent increase over last year's spending for VA health care. VA expects to treat 3.9 million patients next year, an increase of 2.6 percent.

The budget reinforces VA's changing health-care focus, permitting the department to continue the shift from hospital inpatient care to outpatient and noninstitutional care. This change will enable the department to provide better and more timely care to more veterans.

The budget invests $400 million to reduce waiting times by redirecting personnel and contract services, altering infrastructure, and improving scheduling systems. To continue to enhance VA's leadership in patient safety, the department is seeking $137 million for oversight and training on safety issues.

The budget proposes a total of $340 million to treat hepatitis C in veterans, and $548 million to fully implement the provisions of last year's Millennium Act which provided for expanded emergency care, extended care, and mental health services.

Benefit Programs 

The Administration's budget asks for $22.8 billion to provide compensation and pension benefits to veterans and their survivors. Nearly 2.3 million veterans and 301,000 survivors will receive compensation benefits in fiscal year 2001. Pension benefits will be provided to more than 363,000 veterans and 253,000 survivors.

The proposed budget provides $999 million -- $139 million over the FY 2000 level -- to further ensure the timely delivery of compensation, housing, education, pension and vocational rehabilitation services to veterans. An additional 586 full-time employees will be added in FY 2001 to process disability claims efficiently, totaling more than 1,000 people since 1999.

The Administration proposes a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to all compensation beneficiaries including spouses and children receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

The COLA, which will be determined by changes in the Consumer Price Index, is estimated to be 2.5 percent. The increase would be effective Dec. 1, 2000, and would cost an estimated $345 million during fiscal year 2001.

If Congress approves the budget request, VA will pay full disability compensation to veterans of Filipino units during World War II who now live in the United States. Currently, by federal law, they receive benefits at half the rates of U.S. veterans. This measure would cost $25 million over five years.

Veterans Cemeteries
 

The Administration seeks $110 million for national cemeteries, an increase of
$13 million. These additional funds will help support the Administration's commitment to preserve the Nation's cemeteries for veterans as national shrines.

New national cemeteries will be in operation in 2001 at Albany, New York; Chicago; Dallas/Ft. Worth; and Cleveland. VA officials will begin master planning on sites in Atlanta, Detroit, Miami and Sacramento.

Construction Program
 

Finally, the Administration is seeking new budget authority of $309 million for VA's construction program. The budget request provides funding for major construction projects, resources for minor construction, and grants for state veterans' nursing homes and cemeteries.

New budget authority totaling $62 million is requested for VA's major construction program, which includes funding for a seismic corrections project at Palo Alto, California, and a gravesite development project at Ft. Logan National Cemetery, Colorado.



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