Federal Government Funding for Fiscal Year 2020 Approved
By PVA National Staff
Congress recently approved a pair of spending packages totaling $1.4 trillion to keep the federal government running for the remainder of the fiscal year (FY). The Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies section includes roughly $217 billion in total for VA operations, which amounts to a nine percent increase over last year. The $91.9 billion in discretionary funding it provides is $5.4 billion more than last year. Slightly more than $80 billion of that figure will go directly toward the provision of health care for VA’s approximately 9.3 million enrolled veterans.
Specific allocations within the $80 billion figure are as follows: $9.4 billion for mental health; $1.1 billion for telehealth services; $710 million for the comprehensive caregiver program; $402 million for opioid misuse prevention and treatment; $800 million for medical and prosthetic research [a $21 million (+2.7 percent) increase over comparable FY 2019 levels]; $585 million for health care specifically for women veterans; and $300 million for rural health initiatives. Congress also provided $8.9 billion in FY 2020 and $11.3 billion in FY 2021 which will go towards further implementation of the VA MISSION Act and VA’s Community Care Networks.
Much of the $122 billion in mandatory funding goes toward VA’s various benefit programs and services including disability compensation programs for 5.1 million veterans and more than 446,000 survivors; education benefits for nearly 900,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for approximately 124,000 veterans. Here, Congress set aside $153.6 million for the implementation of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. Also, $1.9 billion will go toward VA homelessness programs and $3.1 billion will go toward ensuring that proper staffing and resources are utilized to reduce the wait time and backlog of disability decisions on appeal, and to meet the demand for other benefit programs, including the new Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans eligibility.
Finally, the bill provides $87.6 billion in FY 2021 advance discretionary funding for veterans health care, and $131.0 billion in FY 2021 advance mandatory funding for veterans benefits.
In other appropriations actions, Congress approved creation of a Disabled Veterans Program within the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. For several years, PVA has led a coalition of allies in the disability and VSO communities to press Congress to establish such a program to bring more attention to the employment challenges faced by veterans with catastrophic disabilities. The package also extends through 2020 the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (including the VOW to Hire Heroes Act credits) that provide incentives to employers to hire those with barriers to work and provides a two-year extension of the 7.5 percent threshold for medical expenses deductions.