Senate Passes Legislation To Provide More Than $72 Billion For Veterans’ Health Care
As Lead Democrat on VA Appropriations, Schatz Worked To Increase Funding For Veterans
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan spending package that will provide $72.5 billion to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to strengthen delivery of health care for veterans. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), lead Democrat on the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, worked to secure $1.25 billion more than the president’s request for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Services and Medical Community Care accounts, including $750 million for in-house care and $500 million for VA community care, as well as $30 million more than the president’s request for telehealth to expand capabilities in remote areas.
“Everybody pays lip service to veterans, but this spending package shows that we are delivering on our promises,” said Senator Schatz. “I hope we can build on this bipartisanship and come together to adjust the budget caps for the VA so veterans can continue to get the high-quality care they need, regardless of whether it is in the community or at the VA.”
There are approximately 112,944 veterans living in Hawai‘i. This spending package will fund VA health care delivery in Hawai‘i at Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center on Oahu; Lihue Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC); Kailua-Kona CBOC; Kahului CBOC; Hilo CBOC; Ewa Beach CBOC; Lanai Outreach Clinic; and Molokai Outreach Clinic, as well as VA Pacific Islands Health Care System facilities across the territories, including Guam CBOC; American Samoa CBOC; and Saipan Outreach Clinic.
The legislation passed today provides funding for a number of VHA programs, including:
- $15 million for the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, which aims to increase opportunities for veterans with disabilities to participate in sports. With this funding the VA will look at opportunities to expand grant eligibility to include recreational and lifelong sports, such as open-ocean swimming, surfing, outrigger canoeing, hunting, and fishing.
- $865 million for the VA Caregivers program, which will help fund the expansion of the program to pre-9/11 veterans who were recently made eligible under the MISSION Act.
- $206.1 million for suicide prevention outreach. This funding will make necessary improvements to the Veterans Crisis Line so that call centers and back-up centers are properly staffed with employees trained to respond appropriately to veterans needing assistance.
- $270 million for rural health care. This funding will support several pilot projects aimed at treating and preventing opioid abuse, including projects focused on alternatives to opioid-centered pain management in rural, highly rural, and remote areas.
- $521.4 million for gender-specific care to ensure female veterans receive high-quality timely care.
- $5 million for the VA to establish Burn Pits Center of Excellence and an additional $5 million for clinical proposals focusing on post-deployment health for veterans exposed to airborne hazards and open burn pits.
- $1.8 billion for programs that assist veterans and their families struggling with homelessness.
- $17 million for the VA’s Intimate Partner Violence Program to continue to address and combat domestic violence.
In addition to funding for VHA, this spending package provides $779 million for VA medical and prosthetic research, which will include a focus on prosthetics for female veterans and toxic exposure. It also requires the VA to provide a strategic plan to implement and improve health care services for veterans in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Freely Associated States by piloting the expansion of health services through telehealth or other community care providers.