The Trump Administration rolled out its 2019 Budget Request on Feb. 12th. While the document does not have the force of law, the request is an annual exercise that outlines the Administration’s priorities to Congress and the public. This outline brought some clarity, concerns, questions, and thoughts about what the new fiscal year would bring for the military and its members. As always, IAVA has your back, and we’ve been digging in to see how this new budget will impact our military and veteran community.
The Veterans Affairs Department budget request clocks in at $198.6 billion overall, a 6%increase from last year’s request. Of that, $85.5 billion is discretionary funding that goes to things such as medical programs, technology programs, and construction projects. The budget also highlights suicide prevention and modernization of the VA as a top priority. Mental health is also a top priority for the VA with a proposed investment of $8.6 billion for better mental health treatment and research, and an additional funding allowance of $382 million to combat the growing opioid epidemic facing the VA. The VA will be facing significant obligations to fund various reforms enacted by law over the past year, including the IAVA-backed appeals reform law and the pending consolidation of community care programs, so the new funds are sorely needed.
Last year, IAVA launched the #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign to address the barriers to care for women veterans and cultural change needed at VA. We are glad to see that the VA has integrated some Deborah Sampson Act provisions in the VA Budget’s Women Veterans Health Care 2018-2020 goals (pg. 182). In addition, to increase its health care services for the growing number of women veterans, the VA has allocated $511 million specifically for women veterans, a request that is 6% higher from 2018.
IAVA is glad to see that the Administration is prioritizing veterans health by requesting to give the VA an increase in budget. However, with the increase of the budget there are a few causes for concern. IAVA has always opposed the round-down to cost-of-living adjustments to the nearest dollar, which is proposed in this budget. IAVA is strongly opposed to paying for other programs on the backs of veterans– in this case, disabled veterans. We will be encouraging Congress to once again block this misguided proposal.
On the defense and national security front, The Administration requests $716 billion for National security programs, including $686 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD), roughly a 10% increase over military spending 2017. Those significant increases go to fund a swath of new weapons, ships and aircraft, as well as an additional 25,900 personnel in active and reserve total military end-strength, and a 2.6% pay increase for the military– the largest in 9 years.
IAVA will continue to monitor the budget and the VA’s efforts to revamp the system, supporting the VA in its efforts to make the VA more accessible to women. To learn more about IAVA’s policy positions, check out our Policy Agenda here. And to join our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign, click here.