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Posted at 05:18 PM on Friday, December 21, 2007 by post6193
In This Issue:
1. Final VA Funding Passed
2. NDAA Sent to President's Desk
3. Senate to Stay in Pro Forma Session Over Break
4. New VA Secretary Sworn In
5. Task Force Wants TRICARE Fees Increased
6. WWI Veteran Dies
1. Final VA Funding Passed: Congress passed an historic funding bill that gives VA the largest increase in its history and fully meets the needs laid out by the VFW and the Independent Budget. The bill provides a total of $43.1 billion in discretionary funding for VA, which is $6.6 billion above the 2007 funding amount, and nearly $4 billion above the president's budget request. The funding includes:
• $37.2 billion for the Veterans Health Administration
• $3.5 billion more than last year for medical services, which includes $2.9 billion for mental healthcare, $130 million for homeless veteran programs, and money to treat more than 260,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
• $1.1 billion for hospital construction and $4.1 billion for medical facilities, which includes a $530 million increase for maintenance and minor repairs.
• Funding to hire an additional 1,800 disability claims raters to help reduce the intolerable backlog of claims.
• $2 billion, a $752 million increase, to help VA Information Technology improve the medical records system to better interface with DOD systems as we work towards a seamless transition.
The bill now moves to the president's desk, where it is expected to be signed. For VA to receive the full amount in the bill, however, the president would have declare $3.7 billion of it as "emergency" funding by Jan. 18. VA does not receive this additional funding - which is the amount above what he had requested in his budget blueprint - until he declares the emergency. We would hope that the president quickly signs the bill into law and release these necessary funds. VA clearly needs the funding. The VFW thanks the congressional leadership and Congress for their bipartisan efforts to ensure this nation properly cares for her veterans.