Just in time for Veterans Day, the Senate Nov. 10 passed unanimously (93-0) its fiscal year (FY) 2016 military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill (H.R. 2029). The Senate measure includes $50.7 billion for VA Medical Services, a $1.9 billion increase from the committee-approved level, and a $5.5 billion increase (12 percent) increase over FY 2015.
The Senate approved an amendment offered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would increase VA Medical and Prosthetic Research to $630.7 million, a $41.8 million (7.1 percent) increase over FY 2015. The increase is in line with the American Cures Act (S. 2115), which would increase several federal research agencies’ budgets annually by a rate of gross domestic product (GDP)-indexed inflation plus 5 percent. Both the president and the House have proposed an increase to $622 million, a $33 million (5.6 percent) increase over FY 2015.
The bill’s passage marks the first time in more than four years that the Senate has debated, amended, and passed an individual appropriations bill. The Senate bill must still be conferenced with the House version passed in April [see Washington Highlights, April 24] and may be revisited as part of an omnibus appropriations package.