(Washington, DC) – Representative Charlie Dent, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, released the following statement upon House passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2016.  The bill (House Amendment #1 to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2029) was advanced by the House of Representatives through a bipartisan vote of 316 – 113.

“Today the House delivered on its promise to care for our nation’s veterans, servicemembers, and military families by providing an unprecedented level of funding for veteran services and healthcare.  This bill will deliver a 9.8% increase for VA medical care, which includes a $4.7 billion increase for VA medical services in order to allow for approximately 7 million veterans to receive the high quality care and treatments that they have earned through their service and sacrifices.  Among its highlights, this bill will make a minimum of $1.5 billion available for Hepatitis C treatments and cures within the next year; increase stipends for family caregivers of seriously injured post-9/11 veterans by more than 25% over the current levels; give the VA the funding it needs to help treat mental health care and reduce the prevalence of veteran suicide and homelessness; increase funding for traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatments; and move the VA closer to the establishment of an interoperable electronic health record system.

The bill will also ensure that veteran disability compensation and pension programs remain funded for the 5.2 million veterans and their survivors that depend on them, allow post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to continue for over 935,000 veterans, and grant vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 137,000 veterans.  VA mandatory programs like these will also enjoy the security of being advance-funded for Fiscal Year 2017 for the first time ever in order to provide our veterans and their families with the assurance that they will be cared for in the event of any broader lapse in government funding.

To address the VA’s disability claims and appeals backlogs, the bill increases funding for processing disability claims by $173 million, provides the Board of Veterans Appeals with an $11 million increase, and supports further staff to focus specifically on working through these claims and appeals.  This legislation also increases oversight of the VA and expands whistleblower protections in order to reduce and rebuke mismanagement at VA offices, medical centers, and construction projects.

Finally, this act will enhance our military’s readiness, strengthen our global defense posture, and support our troops and their families at home and abroad by providing a 21 percent increase for military construction projects.  Such initiatives will ensure quality housing remains available for nearly two million military families, maintain our military medical facilities, and strengthen our National Guard and Reserve facilities here at home.

These provisions have long enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and I am proud to have led the efforts to provide our veterans with this historic level of care.  I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of our veterans and our men and women in uniform in Pennsylvania and around the world.”

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CONTACT:  Shawn Millan (610) 770-3490