(June 24, 2016) House-Senate negotiators this week reached agreement on the fiscal 2017 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House passed the compromise bill yesterday and next week the Senate will vote on it before they recess for the July 4th holiday.
The reason this is important to us is that while The American Legion supports passage of the bill, we are concerned that it is tied to an unrelated funding bill and disappointed it does not meet the Administration’s VA funding request.
While the agreement does provide a 4.1 percent funding increase over the 2016 level, including increases for health care, benefit claims processing, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research, and information technology; The American Legion is concerned that not meeting the VA’s funding request will hinder its ability to meet the expectations for improvement that Congress says it wants from VA. Why would Congress try to undercut VA’s efforts to improve its services to our veterans by not providing funding that is so obviously needed?
We are pleased to see, though, that the bill allows VA for the first time to cover fertility services, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF), for veterans with injuries that cause infertility, an issue The American Legion has strongly urged Congress to support. Currently, veterans who have service-related injuries that prevent them from having children naturally must cover the high costs of IVF out of pocket. The Department of Defense offers fertility services to those serving now, so it’s only fair that veterans receive them also.
We also support the reinstatement of the requirement for VA to report its capacity to provide specialized services, to include spinal cord injury or disease, and the authorization of beneficiary travel for non-service connected catastrophically disabled veterans.
For more background and details about the bill, click here.
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