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Trump's 2019 Budget Would Grow VA By $12 Billion
For the second year in a row, President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will include an increase in spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs, bringing the department’s allowance to $198.6 billion in fiscal 2019 — roughly $12.1 billion more than this year.
If approved, the increase would mark a significant boost for the VA’s budget at a time when federal agencies that don’t wage wars or cover vets are facing historic cuts.
When the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the department’s budget was $49 billion, according to Military Times. In fiscal year 2009, it was still just $93.7 billion — less than half of President Trump’s new proposal. Here’s what the budget proposal, released publicly Feb. 12, means for the VA.
Here’s where additional funds would be headed.
The budget proposal includes $88.9 billion in discretionary funding — roughly 8.3% more than this year. It also includes $109.7 billion for mandatory benefit program funding, a 5.1% increase over fiscal year 2018.
The budget for medical care comes out to roughly $76.5 billion and includes: a $1.8 billion increase in funds for homeless and at-risk veterans; $727 million for medical and prosthetic research — $87 million more than this year’s budget — to support roughly 2,200 projects; $511 million for gender-specific healthcare services for female veterans; $382 million for opioid treatment and pain management. Additionally, $8.6 billion will be allotted for mental health services, and President Trump’s January 2018 executive order to provide transitioning service members with a year of mental health care services through the VA.
Other increases in the budget include provisions for $14.2 billion for the VA’s Community Care program — roughly 9.1% more than this year — as well as $1.2 billion for electronic health record modernization.
Costs are still being cut in VA, however.
The new budget proposal also comes with some cost-cutting measures — some of which are likely to be controversial among veterans and advocates alike, such as a rounding-down of cost-of-living increases. The decision would cut the annual increases in vets’ cost-of-living benefits by rounding the number down to the nearest whole dollar.
The cut is estimated to cost individual vets no more than $12 a year, Military Times’ Leo Shane reported Feb. 12. But when tallied up, that decision could save the VA $34 million next year alone, and $2.3 billion over the next decade. That said, some veteran service organizations remain opposed to the idea.
“Frankly, we just don’t believe it’s fair to nickel and dime veterans, and to pay for other benefits that way. It’s not something that we agree with,” Carlos Fuentes, the national legislative service director for Veterans of Foreign Wars told Task & Purpose.
The proposal also includes simplifying net-worth calculations for disability compensation and lowering the threshold for some medical evaluations, which could save some $1.2 billion over the next decade, Military Times reports. One change involves spending a little more in the short term — roughly $72 million — on VA Vocational Rehabilitation services to increase them from 18 months to two years. But over the next decade, the move would save the department $206 million overall.
Another cost-cutting measure involves placing a cap on GI Bill tuition payments for flight training at public schools, which would save the department $500 million over the next 10 years. The use of GI Bill bennies to pay for flight school has come under fire in recent years, due to concerns over graft and overcharges.
“There are some flight schools that have just charged astronomical fees and tuition for veterans,” Fuentes told T&P.; “There’s essentially a loophole where they partner with public institutions and aren't limited on how much they can charge, and changing that is something we support.”
An Air Force major drowned in a Caribbean Princess cruise ship pool Friday morning, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office said
Stephen Osakue, 37, worked for the Air Force as a research pharmacist, according to a statement by the Medical Examiner's Office on Monday. Osakue was based at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.
As the US sends 1,000 more troops to Middle East, the Pentagon is a rudderless ship caught in a storm
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.
At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Investigation shows Lt. Col. in charge of Corps' 1st Recon was fired for alleged 'misconduct' but has not been charged
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.