Virginia Beach, VA (Law Firm Newswire) May 3, 2013 – President Obama proposed a budget that would grant significant increases to VA funding.
The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, beginning October, 2013, allocates $152.7 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of 10.2 percent over current spending levels. The budget includes $86.1 billion in mandatory spending, which is mostly disability benefits and pensions, and $66.5 billion in discretionary spending, which goes mainly toward health care.
“This is welcome news for our nation’s veterans and their families,” commented veterans attorney Andrew Hook. “This funding increase for the VA is sorely needed.”
A statement released by the VA said the proposed budget “provides for full implementation” of the agency’s plan to eliminate its backlog of benefit claims. The national average wait time for a disability benefits claim, according to the agency, is 273 days. But a recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting showed that first-time claimants and those filing in large metropolitan areas may wait 18 months or longer for benefits.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has said that the VA’s goal is to eliminate that backlog and process all new claims within 125 days by 2015. The agency is currently moving from a paper-based claims processing system to one using electronic records.
“The wait for benefits that some veterans must endure is appalling,” added Hook. “Meeting the 2015 goal and eliminating the backlog should be a top priority for the VA.”
Another goal for the agency is to eliminate homelessness among veterans in 2015. The President’s proposed budget includes $1.4 billion for programs working toward this goal, according to the VA’s statement. Among those is the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which awards grants to non-profit organizations that assist low-income veteran’s families with housing and other expenses. SSVF would receive $300 million under the President’s proposal.
The budget also allocates $54.6 billion to health care, including $7.6 billion for long-term care, $6.9 billion for mental health, and $2.5 billion for prosthetics.
The statement also touted the agency’s efforts to expand veterans’ access to health care and other benefits. It said the proposed budget includes $799 million for new and enhanced health care facilities and $422 million for women-specific health care, an increase of nearly 14 percent.
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