The White House has announced this week that the Department of Veterans Affairs can potentially look forward to a record-breaking $125 billion dollar budget next year assuming, of course, that the budget request makes it through Congress unscathed. The new budget will focus, according the Eric K Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, on easier access to the benefits and services provided by the administration, faster disability claims processing, and $4.2 billion dollars targeted at preventing homelessness, which has long been a problem for the nation’s veterans.
Among other things, the new budget will provide $60.3 billion dollars for discretionary spending which will be spent primarily on health care. $5.2 billion will be used to increase the VA’s mental health program (including suicide prevention) and will put an emphasis on making mental health services an integral part of primary and specialty medical services. The new budget will also allow the VA to expand its women’s health department as well as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries. Focus will also be placed on strengthening access to healthcare for veterans who live in rural areas.
An additional $64.7 billion is earmarked for mandatory funding, particularly for disability compensation and pensions. $44 million will help the Administration complete an automated system for processing applications for the new Post 9/11 GI Bill as well as claims for other VA administered educational programs, a move which should decrease wait time for access to funding from these initiatives considerably.
The new budget is a 27% increase over the 2010 version. As it is written, the VA’s 2011 budget will add $460 million and more than 4,000 additional benefit claims processers to cover the anticipated 30% increase in claims from 2009 levels. Read the full text press release detailing these budget increases here.
Photo thanks to ballookey under creative common license on Flickr.
**Percentages do not reflect actual money allocation in 2011 VA Budget.