The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA), convened by the AAMC, submitted a statement for the record to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (VA) for the April 28 hearing “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2023.”
In the statement, the coalition highlighted the value of the VA’s Medical and Prosthetic Research program and its ability to swiftly translate research discoveries into improved care for veterans and all Americans. To enhance support for the program, the coalition noted the importance of sustained meaningful growth in the yearly appropriation for research and supplemental infrastructure investments.
For fiscal year (FY) 2023, nearly 80 endorsing members of FOVA support a funding recommendation of $980 million for the research program (+$98 million, 11.1%). This compares to President Joe Biden’s request of $916 million in discretionary spending for VA research in FY 2023 as well as $30 million for the VA’s American Rescue Plan allocation, for a total investment of $946 million (+$64 million, 7.3%) [refer to Washington Highlights, April 1].
The endorsing organizations (representing national academic, medical, and scientific societies, voluntary health and patient advocacy groups, and veteran-focused associations) also recommended investments of at least $100 million for physical infrastructure and at least $22 million for information technology infrastructure within the VA research program.
The statement highlighted necessary investments in physical research space to maintain state-of-the-art research; information technology infrastructure to support increased reliance on cloud computing and data science resources and to utilize the full potential of research tools such as the Million Veteran Program; and the importance of supporting VA research to recruit and retain high-quality health care professionals and clinician-scientists to serve our nation’s veterans.
During the hearing, committee Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.) noted that he was “personally encouraged by this robust request,” for the VA in FY 2023. He shared support for the proposed investments to ensure all veterans have access to care and benefits and mental health and suicide prevention programs. Takano also noted his personal priority to address toxic exposures including working with the Senate to pass the House-passed Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021 (H.R. 3967), which President Joe Biden highlighted in his March 2022 State of the Union address [refer to Washington Highlights, March 4].
Takano also noted his concern about the data used to generate the VA’s recommendations to the Assets and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission [refer to Washington Highlights, March 18], intended to modernize VA health care infrastructure. VA Secretary Denis McDonough stated his shared concern and reminded the committee that the VA would continue to update the data in the coming months as the commission undertakes its review of the recommendations.
Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.) also questioned the need for adoption of the recommendations to the AIR Commission, to which McDonough replied that the maintenance and upgrade of the VA’s physical infrastructure is “overdue.”
McDonough is next expected to testify on the FY 2023 budget request on May 4 before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, VA, and Related Agencies.