-Spending on new military construction drops 36%.
-The bill would provide $6.6 billion for military construction and family housing programs for fiscal year 2015.
-The bill devotes $270.1 million to the cleanup of Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) sites.
-The bill explicitly prohibits the building of a prison on U.S. soil for the purpose of detaining prisoners currently held at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp (Gitmo).
-Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has set an ambitious goal of marking up all 12 spending bills by July 4, and for the House to finish debating all 12 by the August recess.
Military Construction: The bill provides a total of $6.6 billion for military construction projects – a decrease of $3.3 billion below the enacted fiscal year 2014 level, and the same as the President’s request. The funding provided will be used for construction and renovation projects on military bases within the U.S. and around the world.
Military Family Housing: The bill provides $1.2 billion to fund construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing for fiscal year 2015. This is $325 million below the fiscal year 2014 level, due to savings from the privatization of family housing, a reduced need for new facilities, and no construction funding requests by the Air Force.
Military Medical Facilities – The bill includes $485.9 million for construction and alterations for new or existing military medical facilities (but not for new VA facilities).
Department of Defense (DOD) Education Facilities –The bill includes $394 million for safety improvements and infrastructure work at seven DOD Education Activities facilities located within the U.S. and overseas.
Guard and Reserve – The bill includes $426.5 million for construction or alteration of Guard and Reserve facilities in 17 states.
Veterans Affairs (VA): The legislation includes a total of $158.2 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of $10.3 billion above the fiscal year 2014 level. Discretionary funding alone for Veterans programs in the bill is $64.7 billion. Approximately $55.6 billion of this discretionary total was provided last year via advance funding in the fiscal year 2014 Appropriations bill.
VA Medical Services –The bill funds VA medical services at $45 billion. Within this total, funding includes: $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $133 million in suicide prevention activities; $229 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.4 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
VA Electronic Health Record – The bill contains $344 million for the modernization of the Veterans Affairs electronic health record system, designed to help ensure veterans get proper care through the timely and accurate exchange of medical data between VA, DOD, and the private sector. To this end, the bill includes language restricting funding until the VA demonstrates progress on the system’s functionality and interoperability.
Disability Claims Processing Backlog – The bill provides $173 million for the paperless claims processing system and an increase of $20 million above the request for digital scanning of health records, centralized mail, and overtime to end the backlog in disability compensation claims by 2015.
Construction – Major and minor construction within the VA is funded at approximately $1.1 billion. The bill does not provide funding for major new hospital construction projects, but allows the VA to continue to correct safety issues and deficiencies, and make patient care improvements at several facilities.
VA Mandatory Funding – The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements including veteran disability compensation programs, education benefits, and vocational rehabilitation and employment training.
Oversight –The legislation includes provisions to increase oversight of taxpayer dollars at the VA, including requiring the agency to report on construction expenditures and savings, forbidding new changes in the scope of construction projects, and restricting the agency from taking certain spending actions without notifying Congress.
Advance Appropriations for Veterans Medical Programs – The bill contains $58.7 billion in advance fiscal year 2016 funding for the VA – the same level as the President’s request.
Arlington National Cemetery – The legislation includes $62 million for the Arlington National Cemetery, a decrease of $4 million from fiscal year 2014.
House Adopted Amendments
Turner (R-OH) – The amendment increases funding for defense-wide planning and design by
$20 million, by a transfer from overall defense-wide military construction, in order to support
long-range ballistic missile defense activities on the East Coast. The amendment was adopted
on a voice vote.
Sinema (D-AZ) – The amendment transfers $1 million from the VA Departmental
Administration account to the VA Inspector General for the purposes of investigating alleged
misconduct at the Phoenix, Arizona, VA hospital. The amendment was adopted on a voice
Costa (D-CA) – The amendment increases funding to address the VA disability claims backlog
by $10 million, offset by a reduction in the Departmental Administration account by $10.5
million. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Ruiz (D-CA) – The amendment decreases and then increases funding for the Veterans Benefits
Administration administrative account by $5 million, resulting in no funding change. The intent
of the amendment was to discuss the importance of reducing the disability claims backlog
through use of digital scanning of records. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Rothfus (R-PA) – The amendment prohibits funding for the VA to give bonuses to Senior
Executive Service (SES) employees. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Murphy (D-FL) – The amendment prohibits funding in the bill from being used to maintain
excess real property owned by the federal government. The amendment was adopted on a
Ross (R-FL) – The amendment prohibits funding for the Department of Defense to close any
military commissary. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Gosar (R-AZ) – The amendment prohibits funding for any patient record-keeping system other
than those currently approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office in
Washington, DC. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Runyan (R-NJ) – The amendment prohibits funding for a new Base Realignment and Closure
(BRAC) round. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Grayson (D-FL) – The amendment prohibits funding for contracts to companies convicted of or
currently indicted for or civilly charged with various types of federal crimes, including fraud,
embezzlement, etc., or that have more than $3,000 in delinquent taxes within a three-year period
surrounding the contract. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Gosar (R-AZ) – The amendment increases the VA Information Technology account by $3.2
million, offset by a reduction in the VA General Administration account. The amendment is
intended to help continue to reduce the VA claims backlog. The amendment was adopted on a
Jackson-Lee (D-TX) – The amendment prohibits funds from being used for homeless veterans
benefits in contravention of existing law on comprehensive service programs. The amendment
was adopted on a voice vote.
Peters (D-MI) – The amendment prohibits funding for federal contractors to use first-class
travel. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Nunes (R-CA) – The amendment prohibits funds from being used for the closure or
abandonment of any facility located at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. The amendment was
adopted on a voice vote.
Walorski (R-IN) – The amendment prohibits funding to replace the current system by which the
Veterans Integrated Service Networks select and contract for diabetes monitoring supplies and
equipment. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Noem (R-SD) – The amendment prohibits funds for environmental impact statements for
veterans facilities located within National Historic Landmarks and that are in rural areas. The
amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
(Source: House of Reps Committee on Appropriations)