News Releases

VETERANS' FUNDING: Murray Helps Veterans Get Hefty Spending Increase in Omnibus Budget Bill

Dec 17 2007

Murray's efforts result in VA budget that is $3.7 billion over President's request

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, helped steer a substantial funding increase to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Congress’ end-of-year Omnibus budget bill.  The bill provides the VA with more than $43 billion in new money – $3.7 billion above the President’s requested budget, and $6.6 billion over last year’s budget.  The Omnibus bill is expected to clear the House on Monday and pass the Senate later this week. 

“Our service members have done everything we’ve asked of them, and with this funding, we are able to take important steps toward ensuring we are keeping our commitment to them when they return from battle,” Murray said. “This bill allows us to make important investments in veterans’ care after years in which this Administration has failed to account for them as a cost of war.”

Senator Murray has established a long record of fighting for the needs of America’s veterans.  Throughout this year’s budget process, Murray fought for money to invest in improvements to veterans’ health care, expand mental health services, fix the VA benefits process, and build new facilities.  The funding will mean more qualified health care workers, reduced wait times for benefits, better prosthetics, and more accessible veterans’ facilities.  It also meets nearly all the Independent Budget’s recommendation for VA funding.

“From long benefits waiting lines and poor conditions at some facilities, to a desperate need for better mental health care, this Administration allowed problems at the VA to fester instead of asking for the funds necessary to turn things around,” said Senator Murray.  “Today, we are taking the first step in a new direction.  We are setting a new standard for how to care for veterans.”

The following are highlights from the Omnibus budget bill:

Veterans Health Administration – $37.2 billion, which is $2.6 billion over the President’s request, and $4.5 billion over 2007 for veterans’ medical care.  This includes:

  • $29 billion for medical services – $1.9 billion above the President’s request and $3.5 billion above 2007 to improve access to medical services for all veterans.
  • $2.9 billion for Mental Health and Substance Abuse – $100 million above 2007, and matching the President’s request.
  • $130 million in Assistance for Homeless Vets – $23 million above the President’s request, and $38 million above 2007, to help care for 2,300 additional homeless veterans.
  • A minimum of $15 million for the Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund, to be used for joint programs with the Department of Defense to increase research, improve access to care, and ensure a more seamless transition for our veterans, particularly in the areas of greatest concern for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan – traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, increased survival of severe burns, and amputation.

Major Construction – $1.1 billion, which is $342 million above the President’s request, to fulfill the Department’s commitment to fund recommendations made by the Capitol Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission.

Information Technology – $2 billion, which is $752 million above 2007, and $107 million above the President’s request.  This will go to improve the health records system to help ensure that medical information follows patients as they transition from the Department of Defense health system to the VA. 

Inspector General – $80.5 million, which is $9.9 million above 2007, and $7.9 million over the President’s request.  This reverses a three-year decline in staffing for the Office.  The money will enable the IG to hire 50 people to provide necessary oversight of departmental operations, ensuring that resources are spent wisely, and that veterans receive the quality care they deserve.