With the midterm elections fast approaching, Congress is under pressure to pass legislation to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year (FY) before the current one ends on September 30. They took a big step with today’s House vote to send a large FY 2019 funding package for the VA to the President. The $208.8 billion measure is $12.1 billion over the current levels, and represents an all-time high spending level. It also addresses many of IAVA’s Big 6 priorities, including those consistent with our #BurnPits and #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaigns, plus suicide prevention and mental health, and VA reform.
Burn Pits and Airborne Toxins
- $5 million to convert research findings on veterans exposed to airborne hazards and open burn pits into clinical applications focused on post-deployment health for veterans.
- The VA Secretary is required to provide an assessment of the process for informing veterans through VA and community care providers about the Airborne Hazards andOpen Burn Pit Registry and their eligibility for registering.
- $5 million to create an Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence to develop a concentration in burn pit study and research.
- A $10 million increase for resources and care for women vets and language requiring a VA plan to retrofit medical facilities to eliminate barriers to care for women veterans. VA must report back to Congress on their progress within six months.
- Requires the Secretary of VA to allocate adequate funding for prosthetic research specifically for female veterans and for toxic exposures.
- Congress also urged VA to ensure the gender-specific health needs of female veterans are met and continue its efforts to expand access to care for female veterans in areas such as obstetrics and gynecological care, treatment for gender-specific conditions and diseases, and female veteran suicide. Congress also urged VA to prioritize hiring of more female healthcare professionals.
Suicide Prevention and Mental Health
- An $16 million increase over the budget request for suicide prevention outreach.
- The VA is required to make improvements to Veterans Crisis Line operations including, ensuring appropriate staffing for call centers and training for staff.
- Funding was included for the VA to continue implementing the recently-enacted VA MISSION Act to consolidate and reform the VA’s community care programs and to extend the Caregiver program to all generations of veterans.
A lot was accomplished in this bill, but there’s still tons to do and we never rest. What was not specifically included in the bill is a proposal to support VA cannabis research, allowing veterans residing in states where cannabis is legal to seek guidance from VA physicians and participate in medical cannabis programs. This is why IAVA fully supports the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, to support veterans seeking help for injuries through the use of cannabis.
YOU can help now by telling Congress to address our top priorities for vets HERE.