Isakson Statement on President Trump Signing Legislation to Fund VA at Record Level
ATLANTA – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today released the following statement after President Donald Trump signed into law legislation to fund parts of the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The measure provides a record $86.5 billion to support veterans’ health care and benefits, medical and prosthetic research, the National Cemetery Administration, information technology, and the VA Inspector General.
“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’m extremely pleased to see this critical measure signed into law,” said Isakson. “Improving veterans’ services is a top priority, and this bill provides the VA with needed resources to continue making reforms, including the implementation of the VA MISSION Act, to deliver the best care for our veterans. I look forward to working with the VA in the year ahead as we continue to take steps to provide top-notch services to our veterans.”
The appropriations bill, H.R.5895, includes funding for the VA as well as energy and water infrastructure, military construction, and other areas of the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2019, which ends on Sept. 30, 2019. The Senate approved the measure 92-5 on Sept. 12, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill 377-20 on Sept. 13.
Highlights of funding for VA priorities are included below:
VA MISSION Act
The bill includes $1.25 billion more than VA requested for medical services and medical community care accounts to support VA’s traditional community care programs as well as to transition to the Veterans Community Care Program as established in the VA MISSION Act.
VA Office of the Inspector General
The bill includes a bipartisan measure cosponsored by Isakson that supports the independence of the VA Inspector General and prohibits the use of funds to deny the VA Inspector General access to any records, documents or other materials. This office is responsible for investigating misconduct and waste of taxpayer money.
Electronic Health Records
The measure provides $1.1 billion for the Veterans Electronic Health Record system and management to support the ongoing integration of VA and Department of Defense records to improve the efficiency and quality of veterans’ health care.
Disability Claims Processing Backlog
The bill includes $46 million above the fiscal year 2018 funding level for the Veterans Benefits Administration to increase staff and resources to assist with providing veterans decisions on their disability benefits claims. It also includes $14 million above the fiscal year 2018 funding level for the Board of Veterans Appeals to support the reduction of the appeals backlog.
Major and minor construction is funded at $1.8 billion and an additional $2 billion is provided for infrastructure needs at VA facilities.
Arlington National Cemetery
The bill provides $33.6 million to continue progress on the Southern Expansion project to add 27 acres of additional burial space at the cemetery.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.