New law for Veterans Administration mandates advanced appropriations; more money in budgets
In October 2009, we reported on the status of President Barack Obama's campaign pledge to fully fund the Veterans Administration. At the time, we rated the promise In the Works, since Congress was in the midst of voting on a bill that would put the VA health care programs on a two-year budget cycle — an effort to make sure the government gets money to the program on time.
Since then, two key developments have taken place.
On Dec. 16, 2009, Obama signed a law to fully fund the VA for 2010. Congress ended up appropriating $109.6 billion, $15.3 billion more than in 2009. According to the conference summary, total discretionary funding was $5.4 billion above 2009.
The president also signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act on Oct. 22, 2009. The law mandates that appropriations for VA medical programs be approved one year ahead of time. Congress provided $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for veterans medical care programs for fiscal year 2011 in its 2010 budget (which was approved at the end of 2009). The 2011 budget, to be approved sometime in 2010, similarly requests $50.6 billion in appropriations for the year 2012. The 2011 budget would "build on the historic increase in funding for the VA with a 20 percent total increase since 2009," according to the Office of Management and Budget.
So Obama's 2010 budget provided billions more in funding for the VA, and his 2011 budget proposal promises further increases. He also signed a law mandating that Congress appropriate money for veterans medical care programs one year in advance. We rate this Promise Kept.
OpenCongress, H.R. 1016 index page, accessed May 13, 2010
Committees on Appropriations, FY 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Consolidated Appropriations Bill, Dec. 8, 2009
Office of Management and Budget, VA 2011 Budget Proposal Summary, accessed May 13, 2010
The White House, Bills Signed by the President, December 16, 2009
The Washington Times, Vets salute Obama on funding, April 29, 2010
Congress votes to put VA health programs on a two-year budget
President Barack Obama made the Veterans Administration a priority on the campaign trail, and under his watch, so is Congress.
On Oct. 8, 2009, the House of Representatives voted to put the VA's health care programs on a two-year budget cycle — an effort to make sure the government gets money to the program on time. In recent years, Congress has been late in approving funds for veterans' health care.
The Senate already approved the plan as part of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009.
Under the new plan, appropriations for VA medical programs would be approved one year ahead of time. Specifically, the advance cash would be for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities.
While this money is only one part of the VA's budget, the effort signals Obama is taking steps toward fulfilling his promise of fully funding the department. We advance his pledge to In the Works.
Congressional Quarterly, House Approves Two-Year Budgeting for VA Health Programs, by Greg Vadala, Oct. 8, 2009 (subscription only access).
The Hill, Violante: The soldier's voice on Capitol Hill , by Roxana Tiron, Oct. 5, 2009
OpenCongress.org, H.R.1016 - Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 , accessed Oct. 12, 2009