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  • Washington Highlights

    House Approves Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Spending Bill in “Minibus” Defense Package

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

    The House July 27 passed, 235-192, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 3219), a minibus that includes the fiscal year (FY) 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies spending bill, as well as three other appropriations bills.

    The spending bill, also known as the Make America Secure Act, provides $88.8 billion in discretionary funding for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, a $6 billion increase above the FY 2017 enacted level. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received a $4 billion (5 percent) increase in funding compared to its FY 2017 enacted level, the highest level of funding ever allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs, at a funding level of $78.3 billion.

    The bill includes $691 million for FY 2018 VA Medical and Prosthetic Research, a $16 million (2.4 percent) increase over the FY 2017 enacted level. The bill also provides $9.7 billion for FY 2018 VA Medical Community Care, a $254 million (2.7 percent) increase above the enacted FY 2018 advance level, and $8.4 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2019, a $1.3 billion (13.2 percent) decrease from the FY 2018 proposed level.

    While on the House floor, several amendments passed as part of the FY 2018 minibus, including an amendment offered by Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), which prioritizes federal funding to hire additional doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals at Veterans Affairs medical centers. Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) also introduced an amendment that passed on the floor, which directs the Veterans’ Affairs Administration to create an opioid abuse healthcare kit for community healthcare providers.

    Other amendments that passed include a measure introduced by Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) to restore funding to provide clinic services to veterans located in rural communities and one from Rep. Donald Norcross (D- N.J.) to create an allocation of $5 million for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) research to study veterans with PTSD and opioid dependency.

    The spending bill also includes a provision introduced by Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) that limits the Department of Veterans Affairs from using federal funds to conduct research on dogs.

    After passing the House, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies spending bill, along with three other appropriations bills included in the minibus, will head to the Senate for consideration.