VA secretary says proposed $300B budget would improve, save the lives of millions of veterans

Published by DON LOREN

(Sarah Silbiger/AP)


WASHINGTON – Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told House lawmakers Thursday that agency officials are requesting the largest VA budget in history because it will improve or save the lives of millions of veterans.


"What the budget really means is health care for an estimated 9.2 million vets, disability and survivor benefits for an estimated 6 million vets and their families, and lasting resting places for an estimated 135,000 heroes and family members," McDonough said during a budget hearing of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "What this budget really means is veterans' lives saved or improved by the work this funding makes possible."


But some House lawmakers questioned whether the $300 billion budget request for fiscal 2023, which begins Oct. 1, will provide services to all veterans.


"Our veteran population is rapidly changing," said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House committee. "As a result, VA must meet the unique needs of various cohorts including women, LGBTQ+, minority, homeless, and deported veterans. So, we must ask: does this budget serve every veteran, everywhere?"


About $161 billion of the $300 billion proposal is mandatory spending, which includes entitlement programs, such as disability compensation. Mandatory spending does not go through the congressional appropriations process.


The remaining amount, $139 billion, is part of the nondefense discretionary budget, and approximately $120 billion of that amount is dedicated to veterans' medical care. The White House proposed the VA receive a 20% increase in funding for medical care in fiscal 2023.


McDonough attributed the 10.5% increase in the budget to health care inflation and increased demand for services.


The White House is requesting about 20% more for medical care, and it cited health care inflation, as well as the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as major reasons for the boost.


The VA uses modeling similar to what’s used by insurance companies to estimate demands for health care. Based on the agency’s projections, veterans will rely more on the VA for their medical care in 2023, said Laura Duke, chief financial officer of the Veterans Health Administration....


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