According to a recent American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 19 million Veterans live in the United States. For Veterans, some of the most significant problems are health related. In addition to health issues, some returning service members have other challenges — such as economic or social challenges — readjusting to civilian life. The new Veterans Affairs budget plan focuses on addressing Veterans issues by supplementing many programs for service members and their families.
Recently, House lawmakers approved a new Veterans Affairs budget for next year. The significant funding increase includes $270 billion, supporting critical programs and improving outreach to more Veterans. In years past, Congress and the White House have routinely failed to pass a budget by that deadline, creating spending complications for federal agencies.
In fiscal 2001, the VA budget totaled about $45 billion. By fiscal 2011, it was about $125 billion, almost triple that total. Ten years later, in 2021, the department’s budget was nearly double that again, at $245 billion. The 2022 VA budget plan would be the largest in department history and mark another substantial increase in funding for Veterans Affairs.
Over the past several months, members of Congress debated the VA budget priorities and made their adjustments before settling on a compromise plan for the fiscal 2022 plan.
Mental health care is at the forefront of the 2022 VA budget plan. The budget calls for a $10.7 billion increase — a 13.5 % increase from last year — to mental health care spending for Veterans. Another new recruiting program urging military medical personnel leaving active duty to join VA health care teams has planned funding of $1 million in the new VA budget plan. The VA budget plan also includes about $3.3 billion more in medical spending on top of the $94 billion in advance appropriations already approved for fiscal 2022.
Under the new plan, Veterans Affairs would nearly double spending on Veterans suicide prevention programs, more than $540 million in the next fiscal year. A notable program that helps Veterans experiencing homelessness would see a sizable boost — up 4.4% from 2021 — aligning with the administration’s goal to achieve a systematic end to homelessness for American Veterans. Another increase includes gender-specific care and program support, over $700 million — a 12% boost from years prior.
A program launched in 2019, VET TEC, stands for Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses. This five-year pilot program will pay for veterans to get training in technology jobs. This year alone, the program has proven to be very popular, with close to 14,000 applications and 3,000 enrollees. Under the new VA budget plan, $45 million has been authorized to back this program next year.
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Christopher E. Botti,
Esq., Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law