President Bush Signs $1.8 Billion in New Emergency Spending for VA in Iraq War Funding Bill

House Committee on Appropriations

To View the Entire Report, please go to this link: http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/files/VFCS/$1.8BillionIraqWarSummary5-25-07.pdf

For immediate release:  Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summary of the Fiscal 2007 Supplemental Funding Legislation

The House and Senate are poised to approve legislation providing $119.995 billion primarily for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for improving the health care for returning soldiers and veterans, for continued Hurricane Katrina recovery for the Gulf Coast, to fill major gaps in homeland security, and to provide emergency drought relief for farmers.  [Note: only medical-related appropriations are listed here.]

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Department of Defense Health Programs:  $3 billion

Provides an additional $1.9 billion above the request, including:
  * $410 million in uncovered and unbudgeted fees
  * $500 million to eliminate “efficiency wedge” savings and reinvest in military hospitals
  * $20 million to repair facilities at Walter Reed
  * $900 million for brain trauma injury (BTI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment and research
  * Allows for transfer of excess PTSD and BTI treatment funds to the Veterans Administration for soldiers transitioning from the military

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

Department of Veterans Affairs: $1.78 billion

The funding included in the Supplemental is specifically targeted toward treatment for OEF/OIF veterans, reducing the backlog of benefits claims, and ensuring that facilities are maintained at the highest level.  The funding includes the following:

Medical Services:  $466.7 million

  * $30 million for at least one new Level I polytrauma center – this funding should be sufficient to allow the VA to establish at least one new Level I comprehensive polytrauma center. 
  * $9.4 million in operations costs associated with the establishment of new polytrauma residential transitional rehabilitation programs.  Severely injured veterans may require extensive periods of rehabilitation to successfully integrate back into the community.  Traumatic Brain Injury, particularly in combination with PTSD and other stress reactions and mental health problems, is among the conditions that require extensive rehabilitation including transitional programming.  The funding will allow the VA to establish four additional transitional programs. 
  * $10 million for additional transition caseworkers – The Secretary has announced his intention to hire 100 new transition caseworkers, to work with separating veterans and their families.  The additional funding would be sufficient for this new initiative.
  * $20 million for Vet Centers/Readjustment Counseling – Vet Centers and the readjustment counseling provided by them remain one of the top rated VA programs among veterans.  These “storefront” centers have seen increasing usage from OEF/OIF veterans leading to a strain and waiting lists at many of the sites.  The additional funds would give the VA the ability to open new Vet Centers and hire additional staffing for existing centers. 
  * $10 million for blind rehabilitation programs –  Vision problems are likely to accompany traumatic brain injuries.  This and the aging veteran population have led to a need for more blind rehabilitative services.  The additional funds will allow the VA to begin creating capacity to better serve today’s vision impaired veterans. 
  * $100 million for enhancements to mental health services – Mental health problems along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are likely to rise dramatically due to extended and repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The additional funds are provided to allow the VA to begin to build capacity, including additional staffing, throughout the VHA. 
  * $20 million for substance abuse treatment programs – Over the past 3 fiscal years the VA’s budget has been flat for substance abuse treatment programs.  The additional funding could be utilized by the VA to increase in-patient and out-patient services for substance abuse programs.
  * $8 million for polytrauma clinic support teams – There are currently 76 polytrauma clinic support teams in the VA.  These local teams of providers with rehabilitation expertise deliver follow-up services in consultation with regional and network specialists.  The additional funding would provide 10 more teams. 
  * $5.4 million for polytrauma points of contacts – Smaller VHA facilities that do not have polytrauma services have points of contact who refer polytrauma patients to a facility capable of providing the level of service required.  This funding would allow the VA to hire an additional 52 points of contact for smaller VHA facilities.
  * $25 million for prosthetics.
  * $228.982 million in additional funds to treat OEF/OIF veterans – the VA modeling has consistently underestimated the number of OEF/OIF veterans seen by the VHA.  In FY 2007, the VA underestimated the number of OEF/OIF veterans by 100,000 patients (almost 100%).  The additional funding would provide the VA the ability to utilize additional funding without impacting services for other VA patients.

Medical Administration:   $250 million

Medical Facilities:  $595 million

  * This recommendation includes $45 million for upgrades to the polytrauma network system.  Additionally, the VA has identified $550 million in needed non-recurring maintenance not budgeted for in FY 2007 and FY 2008. 
  * Medical and Prosthetic Research:    $32.5 million
  * This funding is for research associated with returning Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans and deployment health. 
  * General Operating Expenses:  $83.2 million
  * This funding includes $20 million for disability medical examinations; $60.75 million for expenses related to hiring and training additional disability claims processors; $1.25 million for digitization of military service records; and $1.2 million for the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct a review of management structures, processes and coordination in relation to transition from active duty to veteran status.
  * Information Technology   $35.1 million
  * This funding includes $20 million for information technology support and improvements for processing of OEF/OIF veterans benefits claims, including making electronic DoD medical records available for claims processing and enabling electronic benefits applications by veterans, and $15.1 million for remedial actions needed to provide services to veterans whose personal information is at risk due to a recent data breach.

Construction, Minor Projects:   $326 million

This funding includes $290 million in minor construction for VA-identified needs that were not requested in FY 2007 or FY 2008.  Additionally, funding provides up to $36 million for construction needs associated with the establishment of additional polytrauma residential transitional rehabilitation programs.

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