VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System
President Trump signs landmark VA bill
President Donald J. Trump visited the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System’s North Las Vegas VA Medical Center Sept. 21 to sign the Fiscal Year 2019 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The president was introduced by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie in front of a maximum capacity audience which included Veterans from all eras of conflict. Also attending the signing were Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Nevada U.S. Senator Dean Heller, VA employees, and numerous Veterans supporters.
The landmark legislation includes a total of $208.8 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for VA – an increase of $12.1 billion over 2018. “With this funding bill, we’ve increased the VA’s budget to the largest ever,” President Trump said. “We are delivering the resources needed to fully implement crucial VA reforms.”
The bill funds VA medical care at $72.3 billion – providing for approximately seven million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2019. Within this total, funding includes: $8.6 billion in mental health care services; $206 million in suicide prevention outreach activities; $589 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.5 billion in homeless Veterans’ treatment, services, housing, and job training; $400 million for opioid abuse prevention; and $270 million in rural health initiatives. The bill also includes a $1.75 billion increase in additional discretionary funding above the already provided advance appropriations to support ongoing health care programs, as well as programs authorized in the VA MISSION Act, such as community care, support for caregivers of veterans, and other medical services. It also includes $1.1 billion for a new electronic health record system.
President Trump praised the job that Secretary Robert Wilkie has done since being sworn in on July 30, and applauded the commitment of VA care providers. “There are so many great things that they do that people don’t recognize,” President Trump said. “You don’t have to go out all the time to get what you need, so much of it is taking place here. We have some tremendously talented people. I always hear about the incredible level of treatment and talent that the doctors and nurses have.”
While President Trump lauded the care provided within VA facilities, he also expressed the importance of permanently funding the availability of community care when necessary. “If the Veteran can’t get the care that he needs from the VA in a timely fashion, they have the right to go see a private doctor,” the president said. “Today I’m about to sign a bill that will fully and permanently give our great and cherished Veterans choice.”
VA construction and infrastructure is also included in the bill with $1.8 billion in funding for major and minor VA construction projects, and an additional $2 billion for VA infrastructure repair.
Veterans benefits are also covered in the fiscal 2019 bill, providing $46 million above the 2018 level for the Veterans Benefits Administration. The increase will be used to tackle VBA’s disability claims processing backlog by hiring additional claims staff, digital scanning of health records, and overtime pay. It also includes $14 million above the 2018 level for the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Finally, as requested in the president’s budget, the bill contains $76 billion in advance fiscal year 2020 funding for Veterans’ medical programs and $123 billion in advance funding for VA mandatory benefit programs.
“With this legislation, we are securing a better future for our citizens, we are modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, and we are building military bases worthy of our great heroes,” President Trump added. “We are ensuring that our brave Veterans are respected and cherished like never before.”
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