(Washington, D.C.) Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, led the passage of Congress’s first appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017.  The unanimous, bipartisan approval that Chairman Dent’s bill received from the full Appropriations Committee moves it closer to consideration before the full House of Representatives.  Chairman Dent issued the following response following the bill’s passage by the committee:

“It is imperative for our nation to uphold our obligation to care for our veterans, service members, and military families.  This bill meets that promise by providing an unprecedented level of support for the services, projects, and programs that are relied on by our troops and the over 48 million veterans and veteran dependents served  by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  In these times of growing political divisiveness, it’s encouraging to see that vibrant bipartisan support can continue to thrive for those who have made tremendous personal sacrifices.

This bill is a product of extensive personal conversations with our service members and veterans, and delivers the resources and oversight needed to address those issues that directly affect them.  It provides a $2.1 billion discretionary funding increase for veterans programs.  That investment means almost 7 million patients will be able to be treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) through a 5% increase for VA medical care; over 50,000 veterans will be cured of Hepatitis C; homeless veterans will be provided the care, housing, and job training they need to get back on their feet; and veterans’ benefit claims and appeals will be processed faster.  This legislation also takes steps to make it easier for veterans to access healthcare in a convenient and timely manner within their own communities by encouraging the VA to expand the use of care-in-the-community programs, addressing the deficiencies in access to care in rural areas, and improving communication lines between veterans and Choice Program administrators.  Importantly, this bill will bring further oversight to the VA to address continuing issues and reports of gross mismanagement, fraud and waste, and inefficient practices that negatively affect patient care at VA hospitals and benefit centers.

To take care of those currently serving and enhance our national security, necessary investments are provided for military family housing and medical facilities that will sustain quality homes for 1,388,028 military families and provide medical care for our wounded warriors and 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries.  In light of Russia’s resurgent aggression in Eastern Europe and the challenges faced by our allies across the Atlantic, $178 million is dedicated to the NATO Security Investment Program for infrastructure that will support crisis response, deterrence, and training missions.  And with full appreciation for the critical role that our National Guard and Reserve hold within our military’s force structure, this bill supports a $122 million increase in funding for Guard and Reserve facilities in 21 states.  This includes $20 million for a new access control point at Fort Indiantown Gap (FIG).  This project has long been a priority for the Lebanon community in order to provide security and peace of mind in these uncertain times for the PA National Guard members based at this premier training center and the over 100,000 troops who come here every year.

Every year, our veterans and men and women in uniform look to this bill to provide them with the resources and policies they need to take care of our country, their families, and their personal needs.  This bill seeks to deliver the best quality care possible while responsibly adhering to the bipartisan budget agreement enacted in law.  I look forward to continuing to move this measure forward and keeping the needs of those who have served at the forefront of our attention.”

CONTACT:  Shawn Millan -- (610) 770-3490