WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted to approve seven omnibus bills, which incorporate thirty-four pieces of legislation addressing a number of issues, including the disability claims backlog, foreclosure protections for veterans, research and treatment of tinnitus, advanced appropriations, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) planning and budgeting.
“This markup represented collaboration between the majority and minority, and it’s how I wish more of Congress would work,” said Rep. Mike Michaud (ME-02), the committee’s ranking member. “We’ve passed a number of important initiatives, and I’m hopeful the full House will take them up this fall.”
One measure that passed today, H.R. 813 as amended, would fundamentally change the way the VA forecasts its resource requirements and receives its annual funding. The “Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013” (H.R. 813), a bill Michaud introduced with Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01), requires Congress to fully fund the VA’s discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule, ensuring that all VA services will have timely and predictable funding. Also part of H.R. 813 as amended is the “Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning Reform Act of 2013,” legislation Michaud and Miller introduced to require the VA to institute a forward-looking strategy with goals and objectives, and a five-year program with expected outcomes, milestones and resources. The bill also designates a Chief Strategy Officer to ensure that the planning and programming phases of the process are fully implemented.
“Taken together, these bills represent major reform. They not only make sure VA’s entire discretionary budget is provided in advance, but they require more comprehensive, longer-term planning. This is good for taxpayers and, more importantly, means that the current and future needs of veterans will be thoroughly planned and budgeted for moving forward. Even though the wars may be winding down, the needs of our veterans will continue for decades to come. Today’s actions reflect that reality and help position the VA for the future,” said Michaud.
Michaud’s opening statement can be found here, and a photo can be found here.
In addition to major budgeting and planning reforms, today’s markup also included a number of bills championed by members of the Democratic Caucus. A list of those bills can be found below:
- H.R. 2086, Pay As You Rate Act; Rep. Titus (NV-01) — Requires the VA to pay for medical conditions as they are adjudicated in an electronic system.
- H.R. 1443, Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act, Rep. Michaud (ME-02) — Ensures that the VA is dedicating appropriate research time and resources to tinnitus.
- H.R. 806 – Rep. Brownley (CA-26) — Makes permanent the requirement for annual reports on Comptroller General reviews of the accuracy of VA medical budget submissions.
- H.R. 1842 – Military Family Home Protection Act; Rep. Cummings (MD-07) — provides foreclosure and mortgage protections for servicemembers.
- H.R. 1809, Faster Filing Act; Rep. O’Rourke (TX-16) — Directs the VA to post notices of average times for the processing of compensation claims and requires the Secretary to notify each person submitting a claim of their eligibility to receive up to an extra year of benefit payments upon filing a claim that is fully developed.
- H.R. 1623, VA Claims Efficiency Through Information Act of 2013; Rep. Negrete McLeod (CA-35) — Directs the Secretary to maintain on the VA website publicly accessible information concerning pending and completed claims of compensation for a veteran’s service-connected disability or death.
- H.R. 1759 – Rep. Ruiz, (CA-36) — Directs the VA to submit to Congress quarterly reports on the timeliness in which the VA receives certain information from other departments or agencies.
- H.R.1805, Veterans Claims Efficiency Through Automation Act; Rep. Kuster (NH-02) — Directs the Secretary to include in a required annual report to Congress details on the automatic processing of claims for compensation during the preceding year, including each medical condition for which claims were processed and the number of claims for each condition.
- H.R.1824, VA Regional Office Accountability Act; Rep. Meng (NY-06) — Directs the Secretary of VA to include in a required annual report each VA regional office that failed to reach administrative goals concerning the timeliness and accuracy of veterans’ claims adjudication.