(Allentown, PA) Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, released the following statement in response to the Senate Democrats’ opposition to the negotiated agreement to fund the Veterans Administration (VA), military construction projects, and efforts to combat Zika.

“The opposition by the Administration and Senate Democrats to legislation that provides funding for the VA, military families, and efforts to combat Zika is extremely disappointing and I do not believe that their rationale for opposing bears the weight of objective scrutiny.

The $1.1 billion in funding provided in the legislation, coupled with the $589 million the Administration already transferred from remaining Ebola funds, brings the total Zika funding level to nearly $1.7 billion – just shy of the full amount the President had initially requested. Any additional needs that may be required could be debated and included in the fiscal year 2017 appropriations process.   Additionally, the partial offsets included in the conference agreement are largely from unobligated and unspent resources, something that should be noncontroversial.

It’s time for the Administration and Senate Democrats to set aside the political gamesmanship and pass this important legislation to provide needed funding for veterans, military families and efforts to combat the growing threat of the Zika virus.”

Chairman Dent successfully led the passage of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4974) through the House by a bipartisan vote of 295 to 129.  Chairman Dent was chosen to serve as a House conferee to the Joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee Conference to reconcile the two chambers’ positions and to deal with the inclusion of legislative language that would provide funding to fight the Zika Virus.

Important provisions of the underlying bill include:

  • $176.9 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of $14.2 billion, or 9 percent, above the fiscal year 2016 level.

  • Significant new VA whistleblower protections, to guard against reprisal and ensure consistent and fair treatment of whistleblowers, and $23 million (17% increase) in funding for the VA Inspector General ensure resources are available for additional investigations and a higher workload.

  • $1.27 billion to fund construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing for fiscal year 2017 to ensure quality housing is sustained for all 1,388,028 military families currently served by the program.

  • Increased funding for hepatitis C treatment, long-term care, caregiver stipends, and homeless programs.

  • Prioritization of mental health care, suicide prevention, traumatic brain injury treatment, and opioid safety.

  • The bill provides $1.1 billion in funding to fight the Zika virus and prevent it from spreading, including:

    • $230 million for NIH (vaccines)

    • $476 million for CDC (mosquito control and readiness/response in states and territories)

    • $85 million for BARDA (R&D and diagnostic testing)

    • $165 million for State/USAID Global Health and Operations (prevent spread of mosquitos to U.S. from overseas)

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CONTACT: Shawn Millan (610) 770-3490