WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bill to fund Veterans Affairs and Military Construction accounts was approved by the House Appropriations Committee today, putting funding for critical veterans programs and military base infrastructure on track for consideration by the full House.
The bill increases funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion while remaining in line with recently-enacted budget caps. Overall the bill appropriates $71.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2015, $1.8 billion below the Fiscal Year 2014 level.
U.S. Representative Martha Roby, who serves on the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs said she is pleased the bill prioritizes care for veterans.
"It is our collective duty as a nation to look out for the wellbeing of our veterans, and I am pleased to see funding for veterans care prioritized in this appropriations bill," Rep. Roby said.
"I'm particularly pleased the Committee Report includes language I requested to document the success and efficiency of Patient-Centered Community Care. It just makes sense to connect veteran-patients with local health care providers when there are gaps in services offered by the VA. We have heard good reports of PCCC's benefits, and full documentation will help us make the case for allowing more veterans to take advantage of this innovative program."
The Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013 initiated the Patient-Centered Community Care (PCCC) program as a way to allow veterans to access special health care services not offered by their local VA medical centers. Under PCCC, VA medical centers can contract with local, non-VA health care providers for special services such as mental health care, some emergency care, physical therapy and limited newborn care for veteran mothers.
The Committee Report includes Rep. Roby's request that the VA document the success and cost effectiveness of PCCC in order to establish the program as a viable alternative for more VA medical centers and more veteran patients.
The bill's report language also calls on the Department of Defense to prioritize the construction projects for air traffic control towers that have structural, mechanical, or electrical deficient components. Rep. Roby has urged Pentagon officials to prioritize these projects, including the aging air traffic control tower at Maxwell Air Force Base.
"I've personally climbed up the tower at Maxwell, and can attest to how badly it needs replacing,” Rep. Roby said. “Budgets are certainly tight and changes might not be possible overnight, but it is our responsibility to highlight these needs in the appropriations process."
The full text of the Military Construction & Veteran Affairs 2015 Appropriations Bill along with the Committee Report is available online at http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=376068.