FY 2021 Budget Request Falls Short of VA Needs
By PVA National Staff
The Administration is once again asking Congress to provide large increases in funding VA, but many of its projected dollar amounts fall short of The Independent Budget’s (IB) recommendations. The President’s $4.8 trillion Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Proposal to Congress, which was released on February 10, includes $109.5 billion in discretionary funding and resources for VA health care, benefits and national cemeteries.
These numbers represent an increase of $13.5 billion or 14.1 percent above 2020. An additional $133.8 billion was requested in mandatory funding for benefit programs; specifically: disability compensation and pension, readjustment benefits, and housing and insurance, which represents an increase of $9 billion or 7.2 percent above 2020.
The FY 2021 Budget Proposal would provide about $94.5 billion for VA medical care funding. This figure represents a 12.7 percent increase above the 2020 amount and includes funding to continue the integration of the expanded requirements for the VA MISSION Act of 2018.
The request also includes $1.2 billion for the expansion of VA’s Caregiver program, which provides stipend payments to eligible veterans. It would also set aside $626 million for gender-specific women’s health care—$53 million more than current year levels. The increase would fund expanded access to gynecology, provide more primary care services for women, and enable VA to continue to identify and serve the health care needs of women veterans.
The Administration also seeks $2.6 billion for VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization project and $787 million for medical and prosthetic research in FY 2021. That latter figure is $13 million less than currently approved levels.
Elsewhere, the President’s proposed budget provides the Veterans Benefits Administration with $3.2 billion to process 1.4 million disability compensation claims and 3.8 million education claims. Roughly $137 million of that amount is designated to support Blue Water Navy claims processing, hiring of new claims processors to augment staffing capacity, and completing document scanning requirements not finished during 2020.
Also, $360 million would go toward the operation of 156 national cemeteries and enhance the National Cemetery Administration’s National Shrine and Veterans Legacy programs.
Finally, the request provides $1.8 billion in Major and Minor Construction for priority infrastructure projects, seismic corrections, and cemetery expansions. Among the proposed list of major projects are a new SCI/D Center with 30 (replacement) acute beds and 20 (new) long-term-care beds in San Diego, California, as well as a new 30 bed Long-Term Care Center with space for an additional future 30 beds in Dallas, Texas.
Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget proposal includes at least two more harmful proposals. One would cut over $6.4 billion dollars in 10 years from veterans’ disability compensation payments by rounding down cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Another would make it harder for veterans to receive exams necessary to prove their claims in the future. PVA and its IBVSO partners are opposing both of these proposals.
On February 27, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and the IBVSOs testified about VA’s budget request before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. To review the written testimony and view the hearing, please visit here.
PVA will continue to work with appropriators to ensure enough funding is provided to meet the rising demand by veterans for care at VA hospitals and clinics, and to ensure the VA MISSION Act is fully and faithfully implemented.