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  • Washington Highlights

    House Appropriations Committee Approves VA Spending Bill with Research Bump

    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs

    The House Appropriations Committee April 22 approved by voice vote the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA), spending bill sending the bill to the House Floor for consideration. The final measure includes approximately $430 million in rescissions from various appropriations account to prevent a proposed 1.3 percent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pay raise.

    An amendment offered by Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) during mark-up provided an additional $15 million for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research over the subcommittee-approved level with an offset from the VA Information Technology account. The pay raise rescission would cut final VA Research funding by $3 million. As a result, the final measure includes $619 million for VA Research, a $30 million (5.1 percent) increase over FY 2015, short of the president’s budget [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 6].

    Ranking Member Sanford Bishop (D-N.Y.) also spoke in favor of the amendment. The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) advocated the funding increase without identifying a specific offset. AAMC serves on the FOVA executive committee.

    The White House sent an April 21 letter to House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-K.Y.) expressing “serious concerns about this legislation.” Specifically, the letter opposes the “Republican’s 2016 budget framework, which would lock in sequestration funding levels for FY 2016.”

    The letter continues, “Underfunding the President's FY 2016 [VA] Medical Care request by more than half a billion dollars, equivalent to the cost of providing care for tens of thousands of veterans. If enacted, the bill would negatively impact veterans' medical care services, including reducing VA's ability to activate new and replacement facilities with sufficient staff and equipment and to adequately maintain facility infrastructure.”

    The measure would also provide $63.3 billion in FY 2017 advance appropriations for VA medical services, facilities, support and compliance, matching the president’s request.