Tester Secures Billions to Support Military Projects and Veterans Nationwide in Federal Funding Bill
Senator’s provisions to tackle benefits claims backlog, increase oversight of community care, ensure accountability for the electronic health record modernization program, and expand medical care successfully clear committee hurdle
(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today secured critical funding and language to support military projects and expand medical care and benefits for veterans nationwide during a full committee markup of a number of annual government funding bills.
“Now more than ever, veterans in Montana and across the country are in need of critical benefits and care that’ll help them get back on their feet—especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Tester. “That’s why I fought to secure additional resources that’ll tackle the growing claims backlog, improve the electronic health record system, and expand medical services to veterans living in rural areas and suffering from military toxic exposure. And I included provisions that will increase oversight of VA community care and dental networks to improve veterans’ access to care across the state. This package will deliver critical resources where they’re most needed, and I’ll keep working with my colleagues across the aisle to get it to the finish line.”
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is responsible for writing the 12 bills that fund the federal government each year. Among the provisions secured today, Tester successfully included $3.48 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to increase staffing and tackle the growing disability claims workload, along with $8 million to help the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) track the effects of open-air burn pits on veterans.
Tester also secured language ensuring accountability for the Electronic Health Record Modernization program as part of his ongoing effort to address long-standing issues with the planning and deployment of the new VA system. He also included language directing VA to conduct a study of the availability of inpatient mental health treatment for military sexual trauma survivors, and doubled down on his push for VA to develop a national strategic plan for breast imaging services as proposed under his Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act. To improve veterans’ access to care, he additionally included provisions to expand oversight of VA community care and dental networks.
Among the military-related provisions Tester successfully included are:
- $9.06 billion for military construction projects;
- $1.43 billion for family housing;
- $141 million for Arlington National Cemetery’s southern expansion;
- $85 million for Child Development Centers;
- $75 million for defense laboratory construction; and
- $40 million for PFOS/PFOA cleanup.
Chairman Tester has worked tirelessly to ensure that Montana’s veterans and their families have the resources they need and earned. The bill provides VA with $112.9 billion in discretionary spending and $155.4 billion in mandatory spending. In addition, the bill provides advanced appropriations for fiscal year 2023, including $111.3 billion for veterans medical care and $156.6 billion for veterans benefits. Among the veterans provisions Tester successfully included are:
- $97.5 billion for VA medical care including:$4.8 billion for information technology systems;
- $13.2 billion for mental health;
- $2.2 billion for veteran homelessness prevention;
- $1.4 billion for the Caregivers Program;
- $820 million for women’s health; and
- $327 million for rural health.
- $3.5 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration, which will support additional claims processors and initiatives to address the claims backlog, including claims resulting from new laws and interpretations related to toxic exposures, such as Agent Orange;
- $2.2 billion for VA infrastructure; and
- $882 million for medical and prosthetics research, including in areas such as toxic exposures, traumatic brain injury, and precision oncology.
A summary of the 2022 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is available HERE.