Part of Record $301 Billion Budget, VA Asks for 22% Increase in Healthcare Spending
The White House is pushing for an 11% increase in VA's budget for 2023, which will cover rising medical expenses, expand the caregiver program, and get VA some capital improvement projects.
This proposal represents the first time that VA's budget has exceeded $300 billion - more than six times what it was in fiscal 2001, just before the 9/11 attacks and subsequent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - placing VA second only to the Defense Department in terms of discretionary spending.
Under the plan, the VA would spend more on mandatory spending, such as VA disability compensation, life insurance, indemnity payouts, and transition benefits, leading to an increase of nearly 6%.
Veterans Affairs would increase discretionary spending by $139 billion, or 18.7% over the department's 2022 budget. In a press conference accompanying the budget documents, VA
Secretary Denis McDonough said the plan would help VA help Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors as much as they serve their country.
It's gonna cost more to get VA medical care inside the VA -- by 20%, to $70.6 billion -- and $28.5 billion to get community care, which is VA-covered private health care. In addition, it would increase funding for mental health-care programs by 15% to $8.5 billion and treatment of prosthetics by 8% to $4 billion.
Also, VA caregiver services are getting a boost in fiscal 2023 with an increase of 31%, or a total of $1.8 billion, to compensate enrolled family caregivers.
In exchange, VA will cover caregivers after the eligibility enlargement on Oct. 1, 2023, as well as seriously injured and disabled combat veterans who served from May 7, 1975 to Sept. 10, 2001.
Additionally, it will allow VA to assess and process about 109,000 applications it received since last October from veterans who served during the Vietnam War and earlier, while also considering appeals from veterans who were dismissed from the program, as reported in the budget documents.
Earlier this week, the VA announced that reviews could force up to 90% of caregivers out of that program.
A portion of the budget is intended to help combat veteran homelessness and provide more funding for suicide prevention services, including hiring more staff to mann the Veterans Crisis Line and assisting with the transition to the three-digit number 988.
Moreover, the VA plans to ask Congress for legislation allowing it to expand access to fertility services for veterans, include coverage of in vitro fertilization and adoption for some veterans and eliminate copayments for contraceptive care and services.
A further $2.3 billion is proposed to be included in the proposed budget for the construction and improvement of several large medical facilities, including seismic upgrades to facilities in Portland, Oregon, and Fort Harrison, Montana, along with construction and renovations in Canandaigua, New York, as well as the construction or replacement of two cemeteries.
Another $789 million is for minor construction projects, and $80-million for zero-emission vehicles.
Following the release of President Joe Biden's budget, Congress will discuss and formulate its own spending package, with a goal to complete it by 1 October.
Capitol Hill officials will testify in coming weeks about the request. Nevertheless, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers often voted to support VA budget requests and have been inclined to increase the department's budget rather than reduce it.
McConough said the proposal was great news for veterans because VA can keep providing world-class care and benefits.
"The budget makes smart investments, reduces deficits and improves our long-term fiscal outlook," McDonough said.