Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Guarantee Funds for VA Claims Processing, IT Projects

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

House measure calls for funding the department’s discretionary budget a year in advance.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders introduced a bill Monday that would require Congress to fully fund the discretionary budget of the Veterans Affairs Department a full year in advance.

Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Ranking Member Mike Michaud, D-Maine, said the 2013 Putting Veterans Funding First Act would make it easier for VA to plan for key investments in information technology, benefits claims processing and construction projects. It also would ensure that all VA services will have timely, predictable funding in an era where continuing resolutions and threats of government shutdowns are all too frequent, the lawmakers added.

Congress currently funds the medical portion of the VA budget a year in advance, and it is pegged at $52.5 billion for fiscal 2013 and $54.5 billion for fiscal 2014. VA information technology spending has run slightly above $3 billion since 2010.

Miller and Michaud’s announcement comes as the government faces widespread automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, set to kick in March 1. “If there is one thing people in Washington and across America agree on, it’s that we should never let funding for veterans become a casualty of Washington gridlock,” Miller said in a statement. He added the bipartisan bill “would simply enact into law the widely accepted view that America’s veterans should not be held responsible for Washington’s inability to reach an agreement on how to cut spending.”

Michaud said, “Our veterans sacrificed all they had for our protection, now it’s up to us to protect the care and benefits they have earned for their service. The Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013 is a common-sense approach to ensuring that arbitrary budget cuts won’t jeopardize the care and benefits America has promised our veterans.”