VA’s 2021 Budget and Legislative Proposals – Video
Maura Clancy: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today for our Facebook Live discussion. Today we’re going to be talking about VA’s 2021 legislative priorities. My name is Maura Clancy. I’m here with Michael Lostritto and Courtney Ross, and we are at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. As I said, we’re going to be talking about VA’s legislative priorities today, and a lot of that focus is going to be on VA’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021. Before we get started into the material that we have prepared, as always, please feel free to utilize the comments feed next to or underneath this video on Facebook. We will be posting a lot of different resources there as we try to do any resources that are relevant to our discussion today. We’ll be providing links access to blog posts that we have up on our website or that we’ve done in the past, if we think that they will be helpful to you. We also have the ability to answer any questions that you post in the comments feed, so please feel free to do that. And finally, we have a lot of material on our website at cck-law.com, so please feel free to visit that as well.
As I said before, a lot of trying to figure out what VA is legislative priorities are for the year 2021 includes looking at their budget. VA’s proposed budget is a way to try to figure out what they would like funding to go to, so what their commitments are, what their priorities are for the upcoming year. I did mention that we’re talking about VA’s priorities for 2021. I realized that we’re only a couple of months into 2020, but the 2021 fiscal year will start on October 1st, later this year. Right now, the budget that VA has proposed is just that it’s just a proposal, It’s not a final budget yet. So, in the coming months, VA is going to need to go through the budget approval process. So, they have proposed a budget, it’s very lengthy. There’s a summary of it on VA’s website. It’s very, very lengthy. Even the summary is pretty lengthy, but it’s very helpful. They break down the different areas that they want to allocate funds to. They break down a lot of statistics about past budgets and how this budget compares to the ones that they’ve proposed in the past. So, definitely feel free to take a look if you want more details about anything that we’re talking about today.
But again, the budget has to go through a process of approval in the United States government. So it’s been proposed by VA, which as we know, is an executive agency. From there, the budget is going to need to be reviewed by both chambers of Congress, so both the House and the Senate are going to have to take a look at the budget and essentially vote on it. But that will include a lengthy review process where legislators are allowed to talk to VA about amendments, revisions, changes, cuts they want to make. So, the material that we have today is based on the proposed budget definitely stay tuned to any legislative updates about changes to the budget, if this particular topic interests you, so that you can try to get a sense of what is actually going to be materializing come October when the fiscal year for 2021 begins.
The three categories that we have to talk about today are the three areas where we think they particularly stand out in terms of how VA wants to allocate their funds for 2021. Those three areas are technology modernization. Also one of the primary areas is the Veterans Benefits Administration. People out there might be very familiar with that process if they’ve handled claims or filed claims for monthly compensation disability benefits. The final area is medical care.
We’re going to start with the technology modernization element of things, and Courtney, I’m going to turn it to you in a minute. But just as an overarching view of the kind of funds we’re talking about, the proposed total budget requests for 2021 is about $243 billion. So within that amount, we’re going to be talking about those three areas and where the fund allocations have been proposed. So Courtney, can you tell us about VA’s technology modernization efforts or the things that they’ve announced in their budget as their priorities for the upcoming fiscal year?
Courtney Ross: Yes. So, the budget calls for $4.9 billion of that total number that you just gave to be focused on technology modernization, and that’s a 12.4% increase from last year’s budget. So VA is definitely focusing more resources on this specific issue. A lot of the technology updates are geared towards phasing out older technology that was used in the legacy system or the old appeal system, as you know, or I guess I shouldn’t assume our viewers know but as you all know, Appeals Modernization Act went into effect last February on February 2019. So, it changed the appeals procedural process. So, in reaction to that VA has making some technology updates. One of the things that money will be allocated towards is case flow, which is a suite of web-based tools that basically will allow VA to manage appeals that are pending with the board of veterans appeals. It’s an improved way to attract, excuse me, to track those appeals, and it actually replaces a system that was created 40 years ago. So they’ve been using a very outdated system. VACLS is what’s often referred to it stands for the Veteran’s Appeals Control and Locator System, so they’re finally making moves and allocating resources to update that system.
Another example where the money will be used is to– is for software to process Blue Water Navy claims. So the Blue Water Navy Act went into effect on January 1st of this year. We have a number of videos on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel that you can turn to for more specifics about that act and how VA is really planning to process it, or process those claims rather. But for purposes of this VA is creating what they’re calling a ship locator tool. So it’s new software, a new technology that will make it easier for them to process what they’re calling Blue Water Navy claims.
Another example of this updated technology includes software there is going to be part of rolling out new programs under the mission act. And later in the broadcast, we’re going to be talking in more detail about what those programs consist of, but some of the software will include Telehealth programs and software for the caregiver expansion. And again, we’re going to give a little bit more detail later on as to what I mean by the Telehealth and the caregiver expansion.
Maura: Great. And as Courtney said, a lot of these updates and a lot of the funding that’s fueling these updates is to fix systems that are pretty old. So hopefully, these proposed funds are definitely allocated to an area that’s definitely needed. VA’s technology has had some delays with rollouts of new programs, so it’s really important, I think, to get those initiatives up and running, not only for people that work at the VA to be able to have quicker access to information, but also so that they can work more efficiently and get through the backlog of things that are pending.
Another thing, thank you for mentioning that the budget for the technology modernization is an increase from previous years. When I was reviewing the material for today, the numbers themselves don’t really say a whole lot. We’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. It kind of seems like fake money at some point. It’s just a lot of money. But the percent increases are laid out in VA’s budget and we’re going to try to hit some of those today. Those can be very telling and sometimes reassuring to see that VA is planning to spend more money on certain areas than they have in the past. The total budget has increased this year as compared to previous years. I think there’s a $60 billion increase in the proposed 2021 budget as compared to 2017, and VA is one of the old–only agencies that slated to receive an increase in funding. So those things are helpful to know, good context for sure.
Maura: Mike, do you want to talk to us about a specific initiative to modernize electronic care records or electronic health records?
Michael Lostritto: Sure, and this is one such initiative that is receiving $2.6 billion in the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021. The electronic health record modernization initiative is essentially an effort to establish an interagency medical record tracking system where veterans will– the idea is where veterans will enter service and they will have a medical and electronic medical record that follows them through their active duty service and into their veteran status and throughout really their entire life. The idea is to have one centralized area with all records from the entire time a veteran served, and afterwards that also can be more readily shared and communicated with other agencies. So, VA, in theory would have access to and be able to share information with the Department of Defense who may have records for the veteran. But up until this point, it’s sometimes been difficult to have access to those records from different federal agencies.
The idea with rolling out this initiative is to begin the program at two VA Medical Center facilities and then slowly expand it over the next 10 years. The idea was to begin the initiative, I believe in March of this year, but unfortunately, this program has been met with some delays. There have been some delays in rolling it out due to problems integrating the old technology with the new technology. So, as of right now, these two centers haven’t gotten up and running, but we do expect or at least the proposed budget contemplates that these two facilities will get up and running at some time in the year, and they will like I said, slowly be expanded over the next 10 years to kind of allow all veterans at all facilities across the country to have access to and utilize this interagency medical record system.
Maura: The delays again, I think that’s something that has pervaded new technology at the VA when they try to roll things out. I think a lot of difficulties are foreseeable. There’s a lot of new development that needs to go into creating new software. But I guess it just speaks to the need for funding in this area, especially because I think a centralized place where all of our claimants or veteran’s records are stored could be very helpful to streamline the review process at VBA when people are filing for benefits.
Michael: Yeah, for sure. I think the idea behind it is potentially really beneficial to veterans. You know, oftentimes in my own practice here, if we do need Department of Defense records, it can be somewhat challenging to obtain those records, even though, we represent the particular veteran, it’s difficult sometimes to work between the two different federal agencies. So hopefully, once this gets up and running, it can provide a more streamlined service for veterans.
Maura: Great. I think that takes care of our technology points. We’re going to move on to the next area that we have outlined in terms of what is prominent in VA’s budget, and therefore their priorities for 2021, and that’s the Veterans Benefits Administration funding. So about 5.6 billion has been proposed to go to VBA, or the Veterans Benefits Administration. This number is not the number that will be used to pay compensation benefits. There are over 5.7 million veterans and their family members or dependents that are collecting VA benefits. I believe the number that is allocated for those monthly compensation benefits is somewhere around 130 billion. So this 5.6 billion is not meant to overlap with that funding process or that fund allocation. The 5.6 billion that’s been proposed for the VBA speaks to their goal to handle new compensation claims. So as Courtney mentioned before, the Appeals Modernization Act has kind of changed the whole interface and the whole landscape of filing appeals and claims. So VA is aiming to process 1.4 compensation claims, 1.4 million, I apologize. That wouldn’t be a good number, 1.4 claims. So, 1.4 million compensation claims, and actually 3.8 million education claims in the coming year. These funds will go toward the establishing the resources that are necessary to meet those goals.
And another thing that Courtney had mentioned earlier as well was that VA wants to allocate about 137 million to the efforts to adjudicate the Bluewater Navy claims. So, that will be necessary to establish the right amount of workforce and personnel to work those claims. Also to work on their different technology tools that they will need to actually be able to locate where ships were at a particular time to be able to substantiate a veteran’s contention that they were exposed to herbicides in Blue Water.
Another thing that is not specifically mentioned in the budget, I don’t think, but that is worth noting is that the average combined disability rate for veterans is growing and increasing every year. I think since about 2013, every year, the average combined disability rating for veterans receiving benefits increases by about 2%. Right now, the average is about 54% for the combined disability rate, and that is what forms the basis of monthly compensation benefits. It’s probably going to be necessary for VA to set aside more funding to address the fact that more veterans receiving disability benefits are being paid at a higher rate. Courtney, do you want to talk to us about the funding that’s been set aside for the Board of Veterans Appeals within the Veterans Benefits Administration?
Courtney: Yes, absolutely. So the Board of Veterans Appeals requested $198 million as part of the proposed budget, and much of the money will be allocated to their workforce, but they also kind of outlined what their priorities will be in terms of where they’re going to focus in adjudicating appeals. That is going to be on legacy appeals. So again, we’ve mentioned a few times that AMA went into effect last February, which is the new appeal system, and when it went into effect, it didn’t move all pending appeals into the new system. So anything that was already pending in legacy stayed in legacy unless a veteran or the representative specifically moved into the new system. So, the board and VA as a whole has really focused on adjudication of the legacy appeals as the way to move through what’s still left in the old system.
So specifically, VA has said that they plan to focus on non-remand legacy appeals and get through them by 2022. And what I mean by non-remand appeals is appeals that are making their way up the ladder or up to the Board of Veterans Appeals. So just to give you an example for a little bit of context, there’s still a number of cases where veterans received maybe decisions on initial claims prior to AMA going into effect, and with those decisions, they filed a notice of disagreement in a legacy system. So, all of those are still pending and VA is really focusing all of their efforts on working on those first. They’ve actually already decreased the legacy appeals inventory by 28%, in 2019 alone, so in the first year of AMA being in effect.
Maura: Great. That’s promising because it sounds like if the legacy appeals are at the forefront of the board’s priority, then where does that leave the AMA appeals or the appeals that are pending in the appeals modernization system. So Mike, can you talk to us about how that will factor into the board’s priorities for the upcoming year?
Michael: Sure. So, initially, the Appeals Modernization Act set a 125-day goal for processing supplemental claim appeals, or supplemental claims and higher-level review appeals. So, in order to try to maintain that 125-day goal, VA is setting aside additional funds in its new proposed budget to be able to maintain that specific goal. In addition, specifically as it relates to AMA, VA is prioritizing or at least trying to establish the creation of a new quality management system. The idea behind this is that VA will be able to better assess how higher-level review decisions are being adjudicated. It’s kind of a quality assurance feature that they’re looking to add, just to make sure that they are being adjudicated properly. So, that’s another function of the proposed budget as it relates to AMA.
And then finally, there’s something that’s called the interactive decision template. This has been implemented in the past several years at the board level. It’s a tool, an electronic tool that’s used to allow board members to more easily create decision. So it’ll automatically plug-in specific pieces of information from a veteran’s file, automatically populate into a template. The idea is, hopefully, board decisions can more easily and efficiently be decided and adjudicated, and then distributed out to veterans. So, the new proposed budget includes some additional changes in funding to expand that interactive decision template program, and also to improve it.
Maura: Those two final things that you mentioned sound very necessary to me in terms of number one, making sure that the review process at the higher level of review stage is really a robust one and is actually a second review of the claim. I know we’ve run into plenty of situations where the higher-level review decision is not very different from the first decision, despite the merits of the case definitely being there, and despite the fact that all the necessary evidence is there to prove a claim, and then the decision template part of it that you were talking about.
Another thing, I think we see, we sometimes see decisions that come out with some boilerplate language that doesn’t necessarily apply to the particular claimant in that case. So hopefully, improvements for those two things will lead to a better quality decision making process.
Michael: And it’s particularly important. I think, as we’re seeing the board issue, more decisions than it really ever has, and I think they’re slated to or at least the goal is to increase that this coming year as well. I think last year, they were upwards of 90,000 decisions that were issued. That’s over a five year period, that’s far and away a huge increase from what the board’s production had previously been. So yeah, so this tool, veterans and veterans advocates probably saw some changes to the format of a board decision back in 2018, whereas previously the order and remand section of the decision was kind of the last part of the board decision. That’s been moved up to front and center. The first or at least second page of a board decision now includes the order in the remand sections. So, little changes like that have been part of this initiative, but also, like I said, just they’re looking to find ways to improve their ability to more efficiently and more accurately issue decisions in a timely manner.
Maura: Great. Talk to us about hearings, Mike. Hearings are– I feel like it’s a piece of the VA claims process where there’s always an insane backlog a huge delay. So, is any of the proposed budget– does it speak to any corrections or anything, any forward movement in that area?
Michael: Yep. That’s a great point because as really all things in society are kind of trending towards being more digital, electronic, virtual, so the board is as well. They are looking to create a virtual hearing system. The idea behind this is that up until now, veterans who have requested a hearing at the Board of Veterans Appeals have had to go to Washington DC, or maybe go to a local regional office. The local regional office might not be that local. In fact, it can be several hours away from a veteran’s home, so veterans unfortunately aren’t always able to make the trip. As an additional option, VA is looking to implement this virtual hearing system. The idea would be that veterans would be able to access a hearing before a board member through their computer, through their tablet, through their smartphone, and be able to hold the hearing just as they would if they were to choose any other option for the hearing.
So hopefully this is something, the idea is to roll this out over the next year or so. Hopefully this provides a little bit more access to veterans that wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to or otherwise obtain a hearing.
A couple of other things, in 2019 74% of all board hearings were actually held via video teleconference. I think that just speaks to like we’re saying, the trend away from maybe physical in-person hearings. And such a large majority of hearings are now being held via teleconference that I think this is a further trend in that direction. BVA has said that one of its main goals is reducing the legacy hearing inventory. So legacy cases, as we’ve discussed, are VA compensation claims that have been pending in the old system before AMA took place or was fully implemented in February of 2019. So, in fiscal year 2019, BVA held a record number of actual board hearings, and they’re looking to as part of their new budget and new initiative hold about a 5% increase in what they held from the previous year. In order to do that, like I said, they are prioritizing legacy hearings. If a veteran has requested a hearing in the new appeal system under AMA, unfortunately, they’re probably going to have to wait a little bit longer because of the board’s priority for legacy appeals. So currently, there’s approximately 11,000 or so hearings that are pending in the AMA system. We probably anticipate that’s going to grow for the next several years as BVA kind of works through the old legacy hearing requests, and then turns its attention to the AMA hearing requests.
So there’s some changes going on with board hearings. Some of it like I said, deals with the ability to implement some new technology for virtual hearings, but also just an emphasis again, on trying to get through as many hearings as possible with a priority being on the legacy appeals that are pending.
Maura: There’s definitely no way around it. The hearing backlog is very much there. Although AMA was put in place to reduce backlog generally speaking across the board, the backlog of on adjudicated claims, the backlog of appeals, the backlog of hearings, there’s just going to be a good amount of lag time. The board has a lot of legacy hearings to get through, and the number as you said, Mike, of hearings that are requested in the AMA system is just going to continue to grow. They simply cannot work them both at the same time with their priority to get to the legacy hearings first. So, although I guess we’re hopeful– it’s only been a year. So we’re hopeful that in the future this can be worked out, but for a while, it’s definitely going to be a significant amount of work that needs to get through.
Michael: Yep, and I think that is part of the reason why VA is really trying to, I think in the third quarter of this year really roll out this virtual hearing system. Again, just to clear though, it’s a choice, it’s not mandatory. So, veterans who, maybe they don’t have access to a computer or a smartphone or a tablet, and they might be worried that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to participate in this program, it’s a choice. You would still be able to have a hearing in Washington DC if that’s your preference, or at a local VA regional office, but it’s just another option, another alternative for veterans who may be tech-savvy, and want to take advantage of that.
Maura: Great. So that takes care of the VBA budget proposals and VA’s priorities in that regard. So, we’re going to cruise along to the last segment that we have prepared and this deals with medical care. A huge part of VA’s budget deals with providing medical care and health care services to veterans. There are 9.3 million veterans enrolled in the Veteran’s Health Administration program, meaning that 9.3 million veterans get health care through the VA. So, the request for funding for the 2021 fiscal year in the proposed budget is actually 12.9% higher than what was requested in 2020. I think as we’ve been mentioning with all of these topics, this reflects VAs commitment to increase the access to health care and sort of step up the game, so to speak, with respect to providing health care to more people, and to provide more quality services.
One of the things that we noticed that really sticks out in the proposed budget is that VA is particularly committed to expanding and improving access to mental health care services. I believe about 1.76 million veterans received mental health care services from the VA in 2019. And the proposed funding for mental health care services in this 2021 proposed budget is 7.1% higher than what was asked for in 2020. So all of this would be consistent with VA announcing priority or sticking with a priority to make sure that medical care and specifically mental health care is improved. Some of the ways that VA wants to spend the funds that are being allocated for mental health care services include trying to make sure that veterans have more access to same-day mental health appointments so that there is no wait time to be able to see a doctor or a clinician regarding mental health care issues.
There’s also a Telehealth initiative. So, along the theme of what we’ve been talking about, technology is a great thing. VA is trying to improve their technology and so why not be able to offer health care services and mental health care services to people through a Telehealth program. I think that’s very important because as Mike said before, the VA regional office or a VA clinic or facility might not be that close to you. So this might be a good option for people that don’t have the ability to go far away or to travel for these types of appointments.
VA also wants to integrate mental health care into primary care, just meaning that it doesn’t need to be this separate avenue of getting a doctor’s appointment. It can be something that’s addressed on a more routine basis. I think that’s a great thing because that way, I think it normalizes mental health care treatment, which is really important. It makes sure that people and veterans are being advised about what their options are and what’s available to them. So that would be great, and there’s also going to be some money spent on research into new mental health treatments. Courtney, among the mental healthcare service section of the budget, there is a section that does talk about veteran suicide prevention. Can you talk to us about that part of the budget?
Courtney: Yes. So, veteran suicide prevention is a top clinical priority in VA’s proposed budget. The proposal actually asked for 32% more in funding compared to the budget in 2020. So back to Maura’s point earlier in the presentation about how those percentage increases can kind of give you a little bit more context into what issues VA feels like as a priority, and 32% is obviously a significant increase. The funding will be dispersed to a variety of different programs or areas that are geared towards preventing veteran suicide. So, things like cost of outreach and national efforts to improve awareness of risk of suicide and care for those veterans. The Veterans Crisis Line and suicide coordinators will receive some of the funding as well. A program called the Preventive Task Force, which is actually a cabinet-level task force of the secretary of VA is the co-chair of it. And that task force is really– their job is to create kind of a roadmap on a national level for how they will address veteran suicide. Training for clinical and community partners nationwide will be part of it as well.
Research is another important area–excuse me. So, federal agencies will prioritize research activities to really strengthen coordination across the nation again. This includes kind of research to identify who are at-risk veterans or who are at the highest risk for suicide among the veteran community. So that way we can kind of hopefully get ahead of it and prevent it in a variety of other programs. So those are just some examples of programs that were specifically outlined in the proposed budget.
Maura: 32% increase, I agree is definitely very significant. I think that’s probably one of the highest ones that we’ve touched on today. So, Mike, talk to us about Telehealth. This is part of the budget as well. This is also another area where there’s been an increase in funding as compared to 2020. We’ve kind of touched on Telehealth technology things earlier but talk to us about that part of the proposal.
Michael: Sure. So, as you said, Telehealth is an area that is receiving some attention in the new budget or the proposed budget. Telehealth essentially just is the ability for veterans to access medical providers using, again, a laptop, a tablet, a cell phone, where they can have communication at different times throughout the day, maybe even on weekends with a VA medical provider. They can do things like write scripts, they can do things like even sometimes transmit certain vital information back and forth. So this might be the wave of the future in some instances, and VA has shown a commitment to this particular program by allocating about a 4.2% increase in funding in its proposed budget for 2021, over the funding levels from fiscal year 2020.
In the last year, there were approximately 900,000 veterans who actually accessed and utilized Telehealth services, and It’s projected to increase as more veterans become used to it, and realize that it might be something that they want to use for their own health care services. So VA is really looking to expand this program with its commitment to funding in the new budget. These services have so far seen the most usage from rural veterans. Approximately 45% of veterans using the Telehealth services are veterans who live in a rural community. So that’s kind of an interesting statistic, but in some ways, it makes sense because those are the veterans that may be the least able to travel far distances or have access to different health services kind of in the traditional manner.
Maura: Great. Another area that I want to briefly touch upon before we move to some other topics is that there has been an increase in the allocation of funds for women’s health issues and treatment. There is about a 9% increase in the 2021 proposed budget as compared to the 2020 budget in funds that are going to be allocated for women’s health care service issues. Women are the fastest-growing subgroup of veterans, so this is extremely important. We’ve talked about this in previous Facebook Live videos. Others that you can access are on our YouTube channel and probably on our blog as well. These developments are definitely necessary to make sure that female veterans are receiving the access to care and unique care that they need through the VA medical centers. The funds are going to focus on providing programs or increasing the quality of programs that offer gynecological services, programs that offer mammograms and other types of exams that are necessary as part of women’s health care. IVF services, which is great. A lot of women generally don’t have access to things like that. So it’s important for VA to be putting some money into that.
Gender-specific mental health care is another one that’s pretty consistent with their initiative to increase access for mental health care, not just for women veterans as well as for all other veterans. There’s also a commitment to having a women’s health care coordinator in place at all VA medical facilities, probably to ensure that all of these efforts are undertaken at VA treatment facilities. So, Courtney, another area that sticks out to us in this budget is the caregiver expansion. Can you tell us about what that is and what funds have been allocated for that initiative?
Courtney: Yes. So, let me start by saying that VA has requested $1.2 billion for this caregiver expansion, which is a 68% increase from last year’s budget. So that number itself kind of speaks to how much of a priority I think this program is for VA. We’ve actually talked about this program on a number of previous broadcasts. There was one we did recently on top five issues for VA in 2020, where we detailed a little bit more about this program, so you can definitely check that out on our YouTube channel as well. But essentially, this expansion is being implemented under the mission act, and it’s intended to reimburse certain expenses that come up when certain caregiver type services are needed under particular conditions that a veteran might be suffering from. And previously, the caregiver program was only applicable for veterans who served after September 11, 2001. So this expansion is going to expand the benefit to veterans who served prior to September 11, 2001, and it’s going to be kind of in a two-fold rollout. So initially, eligible family caregivers of eligible veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7th, 1975 with the initial rollout, so essentially veterans who served prior to May 7 1975, will be eligible for the program.
In two years, there’ll be a further expansion that will cover veterans who served between May 7th, 1975, and September 11, 2001. The budget itself calls for 650 million dollars aimed specifically at expanding this caregiver program. The funds will be directed towards things like caregiver education, travel expenses for caregivers, skill development, financial planning and legal services for veterans and the caregivers. It’s a really important program and kind of on-theme with what we’ve been talking about in terms of VA updating technology for some of these programs, and why there’s been some delays in rolling out some of these programs. This is a good example because this was originally scheduled to roll out I believe, and I want to say October of 2019 earlier in the fall, and there were delays and a lot of it was due to technology and the technology not being updated and ready to go to actually implement this program. So that’s kind of consistent with a theme that we’ve been talking about throughout the broadcast.
Maura: Definitely. Mike, the last point we want to hit is VA’s priority to provide more funds to help fight homelessness among veterans. Can you talk to us about that?
Michael: Yep. Last certainly not least, veteran’s homelessness programs are receiving some attention in the new proposed budget. There is a 4.5% increase in funding proposed for fiscal year 2021. I think this is recognizing again, VA’s effort to try to deal with the veteran homelessness problem that we’ve seen all across the country. In some of these funds are going to be used for things such as grants to community-based agencies that provide homelessness services to veterans and veterans groups. Things like expanding health care for homeless veterans. The funds are going to be used in conjunction with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, where they’re going to provide certain housing vouchers essentially to assist with rent payments and things of that nature to qualifying veterans to help try to alleviate homelessness and employment services. There are going to be some funds that are allocated to helping prepare veterans who are at risk for homelessness, to get the skills that they might need to work their way out of that situation. So it’s a 4.5% increase over the previous year. I think it certainly shows a commitment that VA has to dealing with and hopefully solving this issue that has really just kind of ballooned in the past several years. So hopefully, some of these programs go to that and help solve this issue.
Maura: A lot of important topics that we talked about today, and again, these are just the proposals. I think they reflect a lot of good things, a lot of hopeful things for what could happen in terms of the budget in 2021. Again, that will start affecting fiscal year 2021, which starts in October of this year. So over the next six months or so, we will be sure to monitor what’s going on in Congress, where the budget is going, where cuts are being made, and what it’s actually going to look like when it’s rolled out. We hope this information was helpful. Again, please feel free to take advantage of the resources that we’ve posted here in the comment section, and also the resources on our website at cck-law.com. If no one has anything else to add, thank you all so much for joining us today, and hopefully, we’ll see you next time.
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- Appeals Reform: Board of Veterans’ Appeals Board 2.0 – Every Decision Matters
- Can I Opt-in to Appeals Reform Once It’s Enacted?
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- VA Appeals Reform: Proposed Regulations
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- VA Claims & Appeals Timeline
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