President Obama has proposed a $152.7 billion budget, a 10.2 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2013, for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support its goals to expand access to health care and other benefits, eliminate the disability claims backlog, and end homelessness among Veterans. The budget includes $66.5 billion in discretionary spending, largely for healthcare, and $86.1 billion for mandatory programs – mostly disability compensation and pensions for Veterans.
“This budget will have a positive impact on the lives of Veterans, their families and survivors for generations to come,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The President believes in Veterans and their families and believes in providing them the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”
The $66.5 billion total in discretionary spending includes approximately $3.1 billion in collections from health insurers and Veteran copayments in addition to the $63.5 billion in discretionary funding announced last week.
VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country with nearly 9 million enrollees; the eighth largest life insurance program; monthly disability pay, pensions and survivors payments to more than 4 million people; education assistance to 1 million students; mortgage guarantees to 1.5 million homeowners; and the largest cemetery system in the nation.
Here are the ways that the President’s 2014 budget request for VA will affect the behavioral healthcare field:
Health Care— With a medical care budget of $54.6 billion, VA is positioned to provide care to 6.5 million Veterans in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The patient total includes 675,000 people whose military service began after Sept. 11, 2001. Mental health will receive $6.9 billion and $246 million has been budgeted for traumatic brain injuries.
Expanding Access—The President’s proposed budget seeks to ensure that care and other benefits are available to Veterans when and where they need them.
Eliminating Veterans Homelessness—A major strategic goal for the VA is to end homelessness among Veterans in 2015. The budget request targets $1.4 billion for programs to prevent or reduce homelessness, which includes:
- $300 million for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) to promote housing stability;
- $278 million for the HUD-VASH program wherein VA provides case management services for at-risk Veterans and their families and HUD provides permanent housing through its Housing Choice Voucher program; and
- $250 million in grant and per diem payments that support temporary housing provided by community-based organizations.