VA calls for 22% increase in medical care spending amid record $301 billion budget

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The White House is asking for an 11% increase to the Department of Veterans Affairs budget for 2023, money that would fund planned increases in medical costs, expand the Family Caregiver Program and provide several capital improvement projects at the centers medical and cemeteries.

The $301 billion proposal marks the first time the VA’s budget would exceed $300 billion — more than six times what it was in fiscal year 2001 just before the September 11 attacks and the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and ranks the department second only to the Department of Defense in discretionary spending.

Under the plan, mandatory expenses, expenses that the VA is required to pay, including veterans’ disability compensation, life insurance and compensation payments, and transition benefits, would see an increase of nearly 6% to $161 billion.

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VA discretionary spending would reach $139 billion, or 18.7% more than the department’s 2022 budget. In a statement accompanying the budget documents, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a press release that the plan would provide “essential resources to help VA serve veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors as well as they served our country.”

“This will allow VA to continue to provide more care, more services and more benefits to more veterans than at any time in its history,” McDonough said.

According to the proposal, the department’s medical care budget would increase by 22%, to nearly $119 billion, to accommodate health care inflation, projected enrollment increases, growth in private sector care and the expansion of other programs.

The plan calls for boosting the budget for in-house VA medical care by 20%, to $70.6 billion, and private VA-covered health services, also known as community care, by 22% to 28.5 billions of dollars. It would increase funding for mental health care programs by 15% to $8.5 billion and for prosthetic care to $4 billion, up 8%.

VA Caregiver Services would also see an increase in fiscal year 2023, with the department proposing a 31% increase, or a total of $1.8 billion, to compensate those enrolled in the Comprehensive Care Assistance Program. family caregivers.

The increase would allow VA to cover caregivers who would need to apply after eligibility expanded on October 1, 2023 to include severely injured and disabled veterans who served from May 7, 1975, to September 10, 2001.

And it would allow VA to continue to assess and process 109,000 applications received since last October from veterans who served in the Vietnam War and before, while reviewing appeals from those who were discharged from the program, according to the budget documents.

The VA announced last week that it was suspending exams that could force up to 90% of caregivers out of the program, an unintentionally high figure officials say.

The budget also includes additional funds to address veterans’ homelessness and to fund suicide prevention programs, including hiring more staff to operate the Veterans Crisis Line and assist with its transition to the new three-digit phone number 988.

The ministry also said it would expand health services for women, requesting $767 million for gender-specific care and to support efforts to improve access to maternity, midwifery and nursing care. gynecological care.

The VA also plans to seek legislation from Congress that would allow it to expand veterans’ access to fertility services, to include in vitro fertilization coverage and adoption reimbursement for some veterans, and eliminate co-payments for contraceptive care and services.

The proposed budget also includes $2.3 billion to fund the construction and upgrades of several major medical facilities, including seismic upgrades to facilities in Portland, Oregon, and Fort Harrison, Montana, and construction and renovations in Canandaigua. , New York, as well as the construction or replacement of at least two cemeteries.

An additional $789 million would be marked to start minor construction projects, and $80 million would go towards building the VA zero-emission vehicle fleet.

With the release of President Joe Biden’s budget, Congress will begin funding deliberations and develop its own spending plan, aiming to complete it by October 1.

VA officials will testify on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks to defend the claim. But in the past, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have supported VA budget requests and have been inclined to increase the department’s budget rather than cut the proposals.

In the VA press release announcing the budget, McDonough called the proposal “good news” for veterans because it means the department “can continue to provide world-class, timely care and benefits.” “.

“The budget makes smart investments while reducing deficits and improving our country’s long-term fiscal outlook,” McDonough said.

— Patricia Kime can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: VA was on the verge of expelling 90% of former caregivers from the program before the exam was suspended

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