VA’s 2023 Budget and Legislative Proposals
Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposes a budget that outlines where it would like funding to go and what its priorities are for the upcoming year.
VA’s total requested budget for 2023 is $301.4 billion. This is a $30.7 billion (or 11.3 percent) increase above the 2022 budget submission.
It is important to note that the budget has only been proposed. While it passed at the House of Representatives in March, it is currently under review at the Senate.
How Does VA Plan to Spend this Budget?
VA plans to allocate this massive budget to a few major areas. Additionally, VA is looking to ensure that all veterans (including women, veterans of color, and LGBTQ+ veterans) are provided with timely and quality healthcare, services, and benefits.
Specifically, the budget will be used to:
- Fully fund its large integrated health care system
- Modernize of VA’s electronic health record system
- Expand toxic exposure research and provide benefits for veterans who have been exposed
- Hire more claims processors
- Strengthen VA’s infrastructure through various construction projects
- Fund education assistance programs and offer Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) benefits
- Focus on certain groups, such as caregivers and homeless veterans
- Fund the national cemetery system
- And more.
Toxic Exposure Research & Presumptions
The proposed budget addresses the growing number of veterans affected by burn pit exposure and other toxic exposures. It increases resources within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) for processing new presumptive disability compensation claims related to environmental exposures during military service.
Additionally, the budget invests $51 million in funding to support medical research related to military toxic exposures. It will also help establish a new Military Exposures Team (MET) to provide a dedicated focus and resources.
Recently, the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2021 passed the House of Representatives to help an estimated 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to burn pits overseas since 1991 by establishing a list of 23 cancers and respiratory illnesses presumed to be linked to the poisonous smoke. If enacted, the new legislation will also expand VA health care eligibility, expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure, strengthen federal research on toxic exposure, and create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure.
Hiring Claims Processors & Claim Automation
The 2023 proposed budget includes $3.9 billion in discretionary funding for VBA’s General Operating Expense account to hire 379 additional claims processors. This is to support growing demands and increased scope of claims as well as to advance claims automation and modernization efforts. It also supports the hiring of 795 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees related to the three new Gulf War presumptive conditions implemented in 2021.
In addition, the budget allocates the following amounts to certain projects:
- $120 million to support automating the disability compensation claims process. Investment in automation will increase VA’s ability to deliver faster and more accurate claim decisions for veterans.
- $285 million for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) to increase staff by 256 and efficiently deliver more decisions. This is an increase of $57 million from 2022.
Addressing Veteran Homelessness
The budget increases resources for veterans’ homelessness programs to $2.7 billion. This goal is to ensure every veteran has permanent, sustainable housing with access to healthcare and other supportive services to prevent and end homelessness. This will allow VA to:
- Hire 140 more social workers to assist homeless veterans in enrolling in VA health care.
- Expand the Veteran Justice Outreach program and hire approximately 440 more staff.
- Assist with the design and development of housing partnerships for aging veterans.
- Provide grant funds for special needs for transitional housing.
According to the VA Secretary, this will get 39,000 homeless veterans into permanent housing by the end of 2023.
VA Health Care Expansion
VA officials have stated that they aim to focus on “world-class” health care and enhance the general well being of veterans. According to VA, the budget will fully fund the operation of the largest integrated health care system in the United States, with over 9.2 million enrolled Veterans
Importantly, the 2023 proposed budget prioritizes investment in care for women veterans, ethnic minority veterans, and LGBTQ veterans. VA identifies these groups as underserved by current department offerings. The budget also aims to focus on mental health and suicide prevention, specialized care for women veterans, telehealth, opioid prevention and treatment, and oncology research and treatment.
VA also plans to use $1.8 billion of the budget to modernize its electronic health records (EHR) system to improve quality of care.
Overall, the proposed budged provides for:
- 3 million unique patients to be treated by VA (0.6 percent increase from 2022 current estimate)
- 148 million outpatient visits (7.98 percent increase)
- Mental health care programs ($8.5 billion, up 15 percent)
- Prosthetics care ($4 billion, up 8 percent)
- Caregivers support stipends ($1.8 billion, up 35 percent).
The budget anticipates for a significant increase in patient care costs as veterans resume medical visits delayed or canceled by the COVID pandemic over the last two years.
Mental Health Services
VA plans to dedicate more than $13.9 billion for veterans’ mental health services. This is an increase of $1.6 billion (13 percent) from the 2022 current estimate.
This request includes $497 million for suicide prevention programs. Suicide prevention contains the Veteran Crisis Line (VCL), Suicide Coordinators, and other efforts to improve awareness of the risk of suicide and the care to those veterans.
Updating VA Facilities
The budget includes $3 billion for construction and expansion of critical infrastructure and facilities, such as VA Medical Centers and clinics.
This funding supports seven major investments in new and replacement medical facilities and new or expanded cemeteries in three locations. In addition, VA will use the budget to make improvements and alterations to existing medical facilities, further expanding healthcare capacities.
VA will use the budget to increase research in several major areas to provide better benefits and services to veterans. Research will specifically be focused on:
- Impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and toxic exposures (including burn pits) on long-term health
- Coronavirus related research and impact
- Enhancing research through scientific computing
- Precision oncology
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs
Each area is allocated between $8 million and $20 million in addition to current funding.
The 2023 budget also requested $430 million for VA and the National Cemetery Administration to meet veterans’ emerging burial and memorial needs. VA’s goal is to provide 95 percent of veterans with access to a burial option within 75 miles of their home.
This money will fund the operation of 158 national cemeteries and 34 other cemeterial installations, as well as their maintenance as national shrines. It also funds the administering of seven related programs: Veterans Cemetery Grant Program (VCGP), Headstone, Marker and Medallion program, Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) program, First Notice of Death (FNOD) program, Casket & Urn reimbursements, Outer Burial Receptacle (OBR) reimbursements, and beginning in 2023, Cremation Urns and Commemorative Plaques.
What Will Happen Next?
As mentioned above, while the proposed budget has passed the House of Representatives, it still requires Senate approval.
If you are currently in the VA appeals process, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to help. We have decades of collective experience assisting veterans in securing VA disability compensation. Reach out to CCK today to schedule a free consultation.
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