WASHINGTON – The President has proposed a $168.8 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in fiscal year 2016. The proposed budget will support VA goals to expand access to timely, high quality health care and benefits, continue the transformation of VA into a Veteran-centric department and end homelessness among Veterans.
“VA has before it one of the greatest opportunities in its history to enhance care for Veterans and build a more efficient and effective system. This budget will allow us to continue important progress to better serve Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “We are listening to what Veterans, Congress, employees, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), and other stakeholders are telling us. We aspire to make VA a model agency that is held up as an example for other government agencies to follow with respect to customer experience, efficient and effective operations, and taxpayer stewardship.”
The budget includes $73.5 billion in discretionary funding, largely for healthcare, and $95.3 billion for mandatory benefit programs such as disability compensation and pensions. The $73.5 billion total in discretionary spending, including over $3.2 billion in medical care collections from health insurers and Veteran copayments, is $5.2 billion and 7.5 percent above the 2015 enacted level. The budget also requests $66.6 billion, including collections, for the 2017 advance appropriations for medical care, an increase of $3.4 billion and 5.4 percent above the 2016 medical care budget request. As a first-time request for advance appropriations for 2017 for Compensation and Pensions, Readjustment Benefits, and Veterans Insurance and Indemnities, within our mandatory benefits programs in the Veteran’s Benefits Administration, $104 billion is requested for 2017.
“We remain committed to providing Veterans the opportunity to pursue their education, find meaningful employment and access high-quality health care and earned benefits,” Secretary McDonald added. “From the men and women of ‘the greatest generation’ to the Veterans who have returned from our most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, every Veteran deserves to have a seamless, integrated, and responsive VA customer service experience every time.”
However, more resources will be required to ensure that VA can provide timely, high-quality health care into the future. VA is hearing directly from Veterans and their representatives that they would prefer to get their care in VA facilities from the medical professionals they know and with whom they have relationships. In the coming months, the Administration will submit legislation to allow the Department to reallocate a portion of unused funding from the Veterans Choice Program to support essential investments in VA system priorities in a fiscally responsible, budget-neutral manner. This flexibility will allow the Department to serve Veterans the way they want and deserve to be served.
VA operates one of the largest integrated health care systems in the country with approximately 9.4 million enrollees; the tenth largest life insurance program; monthly disability compensation, pensions and survivors benefits to more than 5.2 million beneficiaries; educational assistance or vocational rehabilitation benefits and services to 1.2 million students; mortgage guaranties to over 2 million homeowners; and the largest cemetery system in the nation.