The House Military Construction, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee May 1 approved its draft fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bill, teeing up full committee consideration as soon as the week of May 6. Subcommittee members lauded the draft’s bipartisan priorities and its incorporation of nearly all of the almost 1,500 requests received from lawmakers.
According to a committee-prepared summary, the bill includes FY 2021 advanced appropriations of $56.2 billion for Medical Services and $17.1 billion for Medical Community Care to cover the costs associated with VA’s new Community Care Network established in the VA MISSION Act. This is a $4.6 billion (9%) increase and $1.83 billion (12%) increase, respectively, compared to the FY 2020 proposal in the draft bill in addition to the advanced appropriation for FY 2020 provided in the FY 2019 spending bill.
Regarding specific programs, the draft bill includes $840 million for VA’s Medical and Prosthetic Research program, a $61 million (7.8%) increase over FY 2019. During mark up, both Subcommittee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and full Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) highlighted the investment in groundbreaking medical research. The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA), a coalition of nearly 90 organizations organized by the AAMC, also recommends $840 million for the VA research program in FY 2020.
The draft bill contains language to restrict the use of dogs in research within the VA research program. FOVA and the AAMC signed on to a 2017 community letter [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 1, 2017] in opposition to similar language when it was offered as an amendment to the FY 2018 MilCon-VA spending bill.
The Subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote. Despite concerns that a bipartisan deal to raise the budget caps is not yet in place, Ranking Member John Carter (R-Texas) stated he was voting the draft bill favorably out of Subcommittee because of the bipartisan nature of the bill and its efforts to “support our troops, their families, and our veterans.”
Additional details supporting the draft bill will be provided in the Subcommittee’s report, which is expected to be released early in the week of May 6, in advance of the full Committee markup.