The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2023 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) spending bill, H.R. 8238, by a vote of 32-26 on June 23, with all Republican members voting against the bill. This followed the June subcommittee approval of the draft bill [refer to Washington Highlights, June 17].
Following passage of the bill, the committee issued a press statement, again highlighting the bill’s separation of VA medical care spending into its own category, apart from the traditional defense and nondefense categories. Committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-Texas) expressed her opposition to the bill due to the adoption of top line funding levels that were approved without Republican support, as well as several policy provisions outside of the VA’s research program and health care delivery to veterans.
The subcommittee released additional details in the report accompanying the bill in advance of full committee consideration. For the VA’s Medical and Prosthetic Research program, the report highlighted research to support women veterans, access to oncology clinical trials, and the Million Veteran Program (MVP), a volunteer research program to study how genetics, military exposures, and lifestyle impact the health of veterans. Both committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and MilCon-VA Subcommittee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) highlighted the bill’s investment of $926 million in the VA research program during their opening statements at the full committee markup.
The report noted ongoing computing infrastructure limitations at the VA related to MVP data and stated, “The Committee notes with concern that scientific access to this valuable research tool is severely limited by the computing infrastructure and urges VA to provide the funds needed to ensure appropriate access to the MVP database for the VA research community.” The report also encouraged VA to allocate “sufficient resources” for research facilities improvements.
Regarding veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention, the report noted, “The Committee recommends that the [VA] continue to seek out public-private partnerships, in particular with research universities, teaching hospitals, and other partners, to expand upon its existing efforts related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance use disorders.”
The FY 2023 MilCon-VA bill was the fourth of 12 spending bills to be passed by the House Appropriations Committee, which completed marking up all 12 spending bills on June 30 [refer to related story] in advance of a weeklong congressional recess.