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VA 2022 Budget Proposal

Video Transcription:

Courtney Ross: Good afternoon. Welcome to CCK On Air. I’m Courtney Ross and joining me today is Nick Briggs and Alyse Phillips. Today, we are discussing VA’s budget and legislative proposals for fiscal year 2022. Every year, VA proposes a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year, that outlines the amount that requesting to include their priorities and the specific areas where the funding will be spent.

Today, we’re going to briefly outline some of the areas that VA has identified, to include the amount of funding they have identified that will be dedicated to each area. Now, before we jump in, I just want to preface this by saying that what we’re discussing today is just VA’s proposed budget. This hasn’t been finalized or gone through the approval process with Congress just yet. More details are expected in the next few weeks.

Generally speaking, this is what VA has already outlined for the proposal. The proposal includes an 8.5 billion dollar increased from VA’s current budget, which is about an 8.2 percent increase from last year’s budget. If approved by Congress, this would give VA approximately a hundred and thirteen-billion-dollar total budget for fiscal year 2022. The fiscal year for VA runs from October through September. October 1st of 2021, we’ll start the fiscal year 2022 and it will run through the end of September of next year.

With that said, Alyse, I’m going to turn to you first. If you could start by outlining the goal of VA’s budget and some of these specific areas that VA has identified as far as what will be included in the budget and where the money will be allocated.

Alyse Philipps: Of course. The main goal is just to ensure that all American veterans, including women veterans, veterans of color, LGBTQ+ veterans, all receive care and benefits that they’ve earned. To do so, they’ve outlined several main areas that they’re going to focus. The first is homelessness, then suicide prevention, VA health care, and caregiver support, medical and prosthetic research, updating VA infrastructures. That’s going to be your facilities, your clinics. And then, hiring new claims processors. We’ll go through those one by one. I’m going to start with the veterans’ homelessness. The 2022 budget is going to request a boost in the homelessness program based in an uptick[?] of veteran homelessness that they saw in 2020. The proposal is for about a 4.4 percent increase to the current 2.1 billion that’s being spent.

Courtney: Thank you, Alyse. Nick, I’m going to turn to you now for the next two areas that Alyse identified for us that includes suicide prevention and VA health care and caregiver support. Could you detail what VA has proposed for both of those areas?

Nick Briggs: Sure. As we all know, the suicide epidemic facing the veteran community is one of the biggest problems that veterans and their families face. Between 2005 and 2018, over eighty-nine thousand veterans died by suicide according to the most recent data from VA. That’s more than the number of Americans killed in each major US conflict except for World War II in the Civil War. In order to try and rein in the suicide crisis facing veterans, the new budget plan calls for a significant increase, about seventy-five percent, to VA’s suicide prevention efforts. The budget item for this prevention program would total to five hundred and forty-two million, which is about two hundred and thirty million dollars more than what was provided for in the last budget. This increased budget includes funding to increase the capacity of the veterans crisis line, a suicide prevention hotline for veterans and their families.

The next program that VA is adding some additional money to is the VA health care and caregiver support program. The new budget plan allocates about 97.5 billion dollars to VA health care, which is an increase of 77.6 billion from 2021. This money includes additional boost to funding specifically for women health care and mental health care.

According to VA, women account for more than thirty percent of new VA health care enrollees, in the past five years. More than three times the number of women have enrolled in VA’s health care programs since 2001. Much of the funding that VA is providing is going to be as community care program to keep up with rising in-house medical costs. And then finally, some of this funding is going to be directed toward resources and support for veterans caregivers, including family members who assist the veteran in and around their home as opposed to just health care providers at VA medical facilities.

Courtney: Thank you, Nick. I think a theme consistent with the overall budget that we just heard, with Alyse and Nick detailing those three areas, is that there’s an increase in each of them as far as what VA is proposing for the budget to spend on each one of those three areas. Two other of the main areas that Alyse identified include medical and prosthetic research and updating VA infrastructure. I just want to outline what VA has identified for those two. The budget calls for eight hundred and eighty-two million dollars for the medical and prosthetic research. This is the biggest year-over-year increase included in the budget and recent history for this. One thing to know is that the VA secretary included as part of the medical research aspect research on toxic exposures. That’s one thing to keep an eye on.

As far as updating VA infrastructure, the plan ask for eighteen billion dollars to modernize VA hospitals across the country. According to VA, the median age of a US private sector hospital is around eleven years, while VA hospitals are around fifty-eight years old of age. There’s a significant difference between those two. The secretary stated that VA’s sort of a roughly 1700 facilities are quickly falling behind the private sector and are in need of serious upgrades. That includes the physical infrastructure of the health care facilities and also new technology that is needed for those facilities as well. In addition to that, these facilities are currently struggling to meet the veterans evolving health care needs and so updates are needed to help to meet those needs as well. One of the last areas, Alyse, that you identified includes hiring more claims processors. Can you detail what is included in the budget for that area?

Alyse: Absolutely. This area is probably going to be the one that’s most relevant to what we do here at CCK. The proposed budget allocates 40.3 million dollars to hire three hundred and thirty-four new claims processors to work on disability compensation claims. Currently, there are hundreds of veterans waiting for their earned benefits based on the backlog of C&P requests, which we’ve recently covered in one of our recent lives. That’s worsened drastically due to the coronavirus pandemic, obviously. The funding will go towards that, but they’ll also specifically focus on new processors who will be working on Vietnam War veterans affected by bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. These three conditions were added to the list of presumed conditions linked to Agent Orange in that 2021 NDAA. We also have two videos covering that update, so you can check those out as well on our website.

Courtney: Thanks, Alyse. This discussion was really just intended to be, again, a general overview of what VA’s proposed budget is. I want to conclude by just reiterating again that this is just VA’s proposed budget. It has not been finalized yet or gone through the process necessary to finalize it. More information and more details are expected in the next few weeks. Thank you, Nick and Alyse, for joining me today. Thank you all for joining us. If you are looking for any more information on VA’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2022, you can read our blog which will be included in a link attached to this video. Also, don’t forget to check out CCK on our social media and YouTube channels for more information on veterans news and updates.