VA Budget 2013

Posted: March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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On 29 FEB the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs (SVAC) held its first hearing on the FY2013 proposed budget and the FY2014 Advanced funding budget. It was an extremely well attended hearing by the Senators of the Committee. Along with Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), Senators Akaka (D-HI), Isakson (R-), Brown (D-OH), Brown (R-MA), Tester (D-MT), Boozman (R-AR), Begich (D-AK),Johanns (R-NE), Moran (R-KS), and Isakson (R-GA). And most of them stayed! This is dramatic. They all were probably happy to be in a hearing where there is a proposed increase in the budget; rather than a dramatic cut. (4.5% increase in discretionary funding.) For approximately 2 hours Secretary Shinkeki and his Under Secretaries of Health, Benefits, Memorial Affairs, the Assistant Secretary for IT and Chief Financial Officer answered questions about the VA operations and needs.
It was very interesting to learn that 67% of Iraq Afghanistan veterans have enrolled in the VA and that the VA is estimating that 600,000 more veterans will enroll in the VA in the next 5 years. That is a huge increase in needed services and claims. When asked how they were going to control the 1 million+ backlog in claims decisions with this dramatic increase in enrollees, they said (yet again,) that IT improvements will improve the situation. It is hoped that now that the VA has dramatically increased the number of claims adjusters to handle the cases they will provide the continuing training to their employees so that the initial decisions will be correct and consistent across the country. The Committee was also concerned about the proposed cuts in major construction and non-recurring maintenance, the availability of mental health care to veterans (especially in rural areas), the continued inefficiency of the VA’s information hotline and, of course what can be done to increase employment for veterans. [Source: TREA News for the Enlisted 2 Mar 2012 ++]

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