The House of Representatives passed a 2016 budget bill for the Department of Veteran Affairs. H.R.2029 (Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016) is $1.4 billion less than requested by the President and affects the availability and quality of services for tens of thousands of veterans. It is already drawing criticism for lack of bipartisan support and a threat of a presidential veto.
We strongly urge Congress and the President to reject this Department of Veteran Affairs budget bill. Our nation’s veterans have earned the right to quality health care, benefits and other services. Through the last decade, we have fought for resources to address a chronically underfunded VA and meet our obligations to veterans of all eras. While there is work to be done, we applaud the VA’s progress in improving access to care during an era of growing need. This need will continue to grow as Vietnam-era veterans age and more recent veterans transition from active duty to VA health care.
This budget falls well below the request of both VA Secretary Robert McDonald and the President. It will cut benefits to to 70,000 disabled veterans. The President has already stated that he will veto the bill, so we urge Congress to abandon this irresponsible effort and present their peers and the nation with an adequate Veterans Affairs budget.
The impact of the budget bill would hit three primary areas:
- VA medical care would be reduced by $960 million. This undermines the commitment to deliver medical services and timeliness of appointments. It also cuts funding for medical research, which is vital for improving outcomes for post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and battlefield injuries.
- VA construction projects would be cut by $582 million. The VA would provide fewer outpatient services, therapeutic services, and long-term care to veterans.
- National cemetery budget reduction would affect cemetery maintenance and expansion to provide burial honors for an estimated 18,000 veterans and eligible family members that have earned the right of honor in our national cemeteries.
Please contact your senator and voice your opposition to HR 2029. Find your senator here and tell them the following:
We support our veterans. HR 2029 hurts veterans by cutting funding to critical services. We want the budget requested by President Obama and endorsed by VA Secretary McDonald to adequately provide the services our veterans have earned.
Sources: How $1.4 billion in budget cuts will impact Veterans, April 21, 2015, by Ronaldo Leal; House GOP unveils spending cuts for 2016, April 22, 2015, by Rebecca Shabad; feature image from Wikimedia Commons