VA releases FY2017 budget request of $182 billion dollars


VA releases FY2017 budget request of $182 billion dollars

VA News Release

Care and Benefits for Veterans Strengthened by $182 Billion VA Budget

02/09/2016 01:40 PM EST

Care and Benefits for Veterans Strengthened by $182 Billion VA Budget

WASHINGTON — In his FY 2017 budget, President Obama is proposing $182.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Funding will continue to support the largest transformation in VA history; expand access to timely, high-quality health care and benefits; and advance efforts to end homelessness among Veterans.

“VA has before it one of the greatest opportunities in its history to transform the way it cares for our Veterans who nobly served and sacrificed for our Nation,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “As we work to become a more efficient, effective and responsive, Veteran-centric Department, we can’t do it alone; we need the help of Congress. This year, VA submitted over 100 legislative proposals, including 40 new proposals to better serve Veterans. Our goal is provide the best care to our Veterans while removing obstacles or barriers that prevent them from getting the care they deserve.”
Highlights from the President’s 2017 Budget request for VA

The FY 2017 budget includes $78.7 billion in discretionary funding, largely for health care and $103.6 billion for mandatory benefit programs such as disability compensation and pensions. The $78.7 billion for discretionary spending is $3.6 billion (4.9 percent) above the 2016 enacted level, including over $3.6 billion in medical care collections from health insurers and Veteran copayments. The budget also requests $70.0 billion, including collections, for the 2018 advance appropriations for medical care, an increase of $1.5 billion and 2.1 percent above the 2017 medical care budget request. The request includes $103.9 billion in 2018 mandatory advance appropriations for Compensation and Pensions, Readjustment Benefits and Veterans Insurance and Indemnities benefits programs in the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Health Care

With a medical care budget of $68.6 billion, including collections, VA is positioned to continue expanding health care services to its millions of Veteran patients. Health care is being provided to over 922,000Veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn/Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS). Major spending categories within the health care budget are:

* $12.2 billion for care in the community;
* $8.5 billion for long-term care;
* $7.8 billion for mental health;
* $1.6 billion for homeless Veterans;
* $1.5 billion for Hepatitis-C treatments;
* $725 million for Caregivers;
* $601 million for spinal cord injuries; and
* $284 million for traumatic brain injuries.

Expanding Access

The President’s Budget ensures that care and other benefits are available to Veterans when and where they need them. Among the programs that will expand access under the proposed budget are:

* $12.2 billion for care in the community compared to $10.5 billion in 2015, a 16 percent increase;
* $1.2 billion in telehealth funding, which helps patients monitor chronic health care conditions and increases access to care, especially in rural and remote locations;
* $515 million for health care services specifically designed for women, an increase of 8.5 percent over the present level;
* $836 million for the activation of new and enhanced health care facilities;
* $900 million for major and minor construction projects, including funding for seismic corrections, two new cemeteries, and two gravesite expansions; and
* $171 million for improved customer service by providing an integrated services delivery platform.

Improving the Efficiency of Claims Processing

The President’s Budget provides for continued implementation of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) robust Transformation Plan — a series of people, process, and technology initiatives — in 2017. This plan will continue to systematically improve the quality and efficiency of claims processing.
Major claims transformation initiatives in the budget invest $323 million to bring leading-edge technology to claims processing, including:

* $180 million ($143 million in Information Technology and $37 million in VBA) to enhance the electronic claims processing system — the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS); and
* $143 million for Veterans Claims Intake Program (VCIP) to continue conversion of paper records, such as Veterans’ medical records, into electronic images and data in VBMS.

In addition, the President’s Budget supports increasing VBA’s workforce to address staffing needs so it can continue to improve the delivery of benefits to Veterans. As VBA continues to receive and complete more disability compensation rating claims, the volume of non-rating claims correspondingly increases. The request for $54 million for 300 additional full-time equivalent employees (FTE) and claims processing support will allow VBA to provide more timely actions on non-rating claims.

Appeals Reform

The current appeals process is complicated and ineffective, and Veterans on average are waiting about 5 years for a final decision on an appeal that reaches the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, with thousands waiting much longer. The 2017 Budget proposes a Simplified Appeals initiative — legislation and resources — to provide Veterans with a simple, fair, and streamlined appeals process in which they would receive a final appeals decision within one year from filing an appeal by 2021. The Budget requests $156 million and 922 FTE for the Board, an increase of $46 million and 242 FTE over 2016, as a down payment on a long-term, sustainable plan to improve services to Veterans.

Ending Veterans Homelessness

The Administration has made the ending of Veteran homelessness a national priority. The Budget requests $1.6 billion for programs to prevent or reduce Veteran homelessness, including:

* $300 million for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) to promote housing stability;
* $496 million for the HUD-VASH program, wherein VA provides case management services for at-risk Veterans and their families and HUD provides permanent housing through its Housing Choice Voucher program; and
* $247 million in grant and per diem payments that support temporary housing provided by community-based organizations.


The 2017 budget continues the largest Department-wide transformation in VA’s history through the MyVA initiative, which is changing VA’s culture, processes, and capabilities to put the needs, expectations and interests of Veterans and their families first. MyVA has developed five objectives fundamental to the transformation of VA: 1) improving the Veterans’ experience; 2) improving the employee experience; 3) improving support service excellence; 4) establishing a culture of continuous performance improvement; and 5) enhancing strategic partnerships. To aid in this transformation, the Department established the Veterans Experience Office (VEO). The VEO will represent the voice of Veterans and their families in Departmental governance; design and implement customer-centric programs to make interactions with VA easier; and support VA’s “mission owners” in carrying out MyVA improvements across the system.

Veterans Choice Act

The Veterans Choice Act provides $5 billion to increase Veterans’ access to health care by hiring more physicians and staff and improving the VA’s physical infrastructure. It also provides $10 billion through 2017 to establish a temporary program (the Veterans Choice Program) to improve access to health care by allowing eligible Veterans who meet certain wait-time or distance standards to use eligible health care providers outside of the VA system. In 2017, VA will use the Choice Act funds in concert with annual appropriations to meet VA staffing and infrastructure needs and expand non-VA care to Veterans who are eligible for the Veterans Choice Program. VA plans to spend $1.4 billion in 2016 and $853 million in 2017 to support more than 9,700 new medical care staff hired through the Choice Act; $980 million in 2016 and $116 million in 2017 to improve VA facilities.

Other Key Services for Veterans

* $286 million to administer VA’s system of 134 national cemeteries, including additional funding for operations of new cemeteries and the National Shrine program to raise and realign gravesites;
* $4.3 billion for information technology (IT), including investments to strengthen cybersecurity, modernize Veterans’ electronic health records, improve Veterans’ access to benefits, and enhance the IT infrastructure; and
* $125 million for state cemetery grants and state extended care grants.

Enhanced Oversight of VA’s programs

* The 2017 budget requests an additional $23 million and 100 FTE for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to enhance oversight and assist the OIG in fulfilling its statutory mission and making recommendations that will help VA improve the care and services it provides.

VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country; the tenth largest life insurance program in the Nation, with $1.3 trillion in coverage; monthly disability compensation, pensions, and survivors benefits to 5.3 million beneficiaries; educational assistance or vocational rehabilitation benefits and services to nearly 1.2 million students; mortgage guaranties to over 2 million homeowners; and the largest cemetery system in the Nation.

Information about VA’s 2017 budget submission and links to related documents may be found here. Information about the President’s budget may be found here.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2017
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
334 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515
Feb 10, 2016 10:00am

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Statement from VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson

“I will continue to use VA’s authority to impose discipline where
warranted by the evidence. That is simply the right thing to do for
Veterans and taxpayers.”
WASHINGTON – Today VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson released the
following statement after decisions were issued related to disciplinary actions
taken against two VBA employees:
“VA continues to pursue sustainable accountability for the Department,
which requires us to follow evidence of wrongdoing wherever it may lead, issue
disciplinary charges based on the evidence without regard to outside pressures, and
ensure that every employee is afforded due process. This is how we must proceed
because this is what is right for Veterans and taxpayers.
“While I felt demotions were appropriate for both executives, Diana Rubens
and Kim Graves, I respect the decision on the Merit System Protection Board
(MSPB) judges’ to reverse the imposed penalties.
“The Choice Act created an oddity for VA Senior Executives where the
MSPB judge is restricted to sustaining or reversing an imposed penalty and may
not impose a lesser penalty, even when he or she believes a penalty is appropriate.
No other agency functions by these rules. And while the law does not allow the
judge to mitigate to a lesser penalty, I am not precluded from doing so and I intend
to consider lesser penalties for both executives.
“To ensure any ultimate discipline is fair and appropriate, I have directed an
expedited fact-finding inquiry into whether discipline of others involved in these
matters is warranted based on new evidence that came out as this process unfolded.
As I have in the past, I will use VA’s authority to impose discipline where
warranted by the evidence. That is simply the right thing to do for Veterans and
“I will continue to take accountability actions based on my review of the evidence, not on media reports, hearsay or political pressure because we know that is how we ultimately best serve Veterans.”

Secretary’s Update

Secretary’s Update

To All:


There were three (3) motions approved by the National Board of Directors at the 2016 January BOD meeting that will direct impact on our membership and the VVA staff. One motion came from the VVA Public Affairs Committee and the other two (2) motions came from the VVA Membership Affairs Committee. Please consider this update as a notice and freely distribute as necessary.


VVA Public Affairs Committee


Motion 7

To remove and refrain the use of the terminology Vietnam ERA Veteran. To remove from organization publications, etc. Suggested to begin using terms such as Vietnam Veteran or Vietnam Generation.


VVA Membership Affairs Committee


Motion 13

To amend the Life Membership dues structure by deleting the age bracket requirements and to set the Life Membership dues at $100 effective January 1, 2016.


Motion 14

To approve the 2nd Consent Calendar:


During the 100th Farm Show which runs from January 9-16, 2016 at the Farm Show Building in Harrisburg, Thursday, January 14, 2016 is Veterans’ and Active Military Day.  There will be a variety of activities during the Day (listed below) to which you are invited but we are writing to call your attention to the Ag-Vet Forum which will be from 11:00-12:30 in the Susquehanna Room of the Keystone Conference Center on the Maclay St. side of the building.    There is no fee or no registration required for the program which is a part of the 100th Farm Show schedule.


Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding will kick off the event, welcoming participants and talking briefly about why agriculture and food careers are good career options for veterans.  Michael O’Gorman from the national Farmer Veteran Coalition will be on hand discussing initiatives that are under way around the country to develop career paths for those persons leaving active military service as well as veterans who have been discharged for longer periods of time.  Deputy Secretary Hannah Smith-Brubaker will speak to the connections that have been made to farmer veterans in the Commonwealth through the Homegrown by Heroes program.  Brig. Gen. Jerry Beck Jr., deputy adjutant general for veterans affairs, with the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will address efforts that Pennsylvania is undertaking to offer agriculture and food career information to the persons with which they are engaged.


Three farmers who are veterans will share their military and agriculture experiences with the group and provide some suggestions about how PA government might better assist them.


In addition to the Forum, there will be a full day of programs by and for veterans on January 14 to which you are also invited…


  • 9:00 am – 7:00 pm in the East Hall:  Veteran service organizations including the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Dauphin County Veterans Affairs, Agrability, the PA Department of Education, and Rodale Institute will do presentations on the AgConnect Careers Stage in the East Hall and, on a scheduled basis, be present at the Ag and Food Careers booth in the East Hall (adjacent to the stage) or in the Susquehanna Room to meet the public.
  • 10:00 am – 10:45 am in the Susquehanna Room of the Keystone Conference Center:  Rodale Institute and Delaware Valley University will provide information on a special agriculture training program for veterans that the institutions offer together.
  • 11:00 am – 12:30 pm in the Susquehanna Room of the Keystone Conference Center:  Ag-Vet Forum (more above).
  • 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm at the PA Preferred Culinary Connection Stage:  An Army-Navy Cook-Off Competition where the teams will consist of people from those services who may have had or do have a military and/or civilian connection to the culinary industry or food industry.  Teams will have 20 minutes to prepare a dish using all of the ingredients in a mystery bin.  Judges will sample and prizes from the corporate sponsor, Weis Markets, will be awarded.
  • 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm at the PA Preferred Culinary Connection State:  Homegrown By Heroes™ Award Presentation where farmers who are veterans and who participate in the PA Preferred program will be recognized.
  • 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm in the Susquehanna Room of the Keystone Conference Center:  Showing and discussion of Terra Firma in the Susquehanna Room.  Since 2001 over 280,000 women have been sent to the Middle East to serve in the War on Terror.  Often traumatized by their experiences, some return home with PTSD, unable to cope with the daily rigors of life.  Terra Firma weaves together the stories of three women veterans who were among the first to deploy, serving in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.  After years of struggling, each has found ways to heal the hidden wounds of war through farming.   The film follows the women as they go about their daily lives, reflecting on their time spent in the military, the impact of war on their lives and their newfound peace of mind, finding that farming gives them purpose and a new way to serve their country by growing food for their communities.
  • 7:00 pm – 7:30 pm in the Large Arena:  The PRCA Rodeo will sponsor a Swearing-In Ceremony for new recruits from all of the services in the region.


We hope you are able to join us for the Forum and the day as well as throughout Farm Show. If you have any questions regarding the forum, please feel free to contact me directly at or 717-346-0426


We’ll look forward to seeing you on January 14.

VVA Member Colonel Clarence D. Bell Jr. Dies

Colonel Clarence D. Bell Jr., Esquire of Nottingham Colonel Clarence D. Bell, Jr., Esquire passed away on Monday, December 28, 2015. Born on April 17, 1941 in New Orleans, he was raised in Upland, Pa. “Butch”, as he was known, graduated from Pennsylvania Military College in 1963 and obtained his J.D. from Temple Law School. Butch served two tours in Vietnam, earning the Purple Heart, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, Bronze Star with “V” device, the Air Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Butch continued to serve his country honorably, ultimately attaining the rank of Colonel in the United States Army Reserves. Colonel Bell was a member of VFW Post #845 in Downingtown, Pa. and the American Legion Post #194 in Rising Sun, Md. For many years, he was involved with the Oxford Golden Bears and the Oxford Little League as a coach. He will be remembered for many things, but most of all for being a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Colonel Bell is survived by his wife, Mary Lou (O’Hara) Bell of Nottingham, Pa.; two daughters, Allison Bell Royer (Shannon) of West Chester, Pa. and Christine Mary Bell of Rock Hill, S.C.; one son, Kevin James Bell (Andrea) of Lancaster, Pa.; and eight grandchildren: Lauren, Kate, and Jack Royer; Patrick Boardwine; and Kevin, Emily, Liam, and Natalie Bell. He was preceded in death by his parents, Senator Clarence D. Bell and Mary James Bell; as well as by his sister, Mary Davenport Bell. Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, January 2, 2016 at the Edward L. Collins, Jr. Funeral Home, Inc., 86 Pine St., Oxford, Pa., where friends and family may visit from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Interment with full military honors will be in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, PO Box 758518, Topeka, KS 66675.

Published in The Daily Local on Dec. 30, 2015– See more at: