CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, the House will consider H.R. 2216, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014, under an open rule. H.R 2216 was introduced by Representative John Culberson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, on May 28, 2013. H.R. 2216 was ordered to be reported on May 21, 2013.
H.R. 2216 provides $73.3 billion in discretionary spending to support the military and their families and to provide for the benefits and medical care for our nation’s veterans. The bill is $1.4 billion above the FY 2013 enacted level and $1.4 below the President’s FY 2014 budget request. The increase in funding is primarily the result of $54.5 billion in advance appropriations that were included in the FY 2013 appropriations bill to fund veteran’s medical care. In addition, the bill funds four related agencies: American Battle Monuments Commission, Cemeterial Expenses, Army (including funding for Arlington National Cemetery), the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The Committee makes clear that the funding recommendations are balanced against the need to reduce the deficit and a balanced budget. The bill does not include the President’s request to increase the salaries for civilian workers. Moreover, the bill maintains the reprogramming requirements for both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Title I – Department of Defense
The bill provides $9.954 billion for military construction, a $646 million reduction below the FY 2013 enacted level and $1.056 billion below the President’s FY 2014 budget request. According to the Committee, “the overall level of funding supports the servicemen and women and their families who are making sacrifices during this time of war. The programs funded in the bill for the Department of Defense address the numerous challenges we have asked our military to accomplish simultaneously. These funds support continued cleanup of military bases closed during the previous Base Realignment and Closure rounds, resource the military’s global re-stationing and force restructure plans, and ensure that our military personnel and their families’ quality of life is preserved within these plans.”
Specifically, the Committee recommends funding levels of $1.099 billion for military construction within the Army, an increase of $582,764,000 above FY 2013 enacted levels. Funding for military construction within the Navy and Marine Corps is provided at a level of $1.616 billion, an increase of $68,666,000 above the FY 2013 enacted level. Military construction funding within the Air Force is recommended at a level of $1.127 billion, an increase of $805,053,000 above the FY 2013 enacted level. Finally, the bill provides $3.708 billion for military construction defense-wide. This is an increase of $129,082,000 above the FY 2013 enacted level. This number includes $798 million for essential safety improvements and construction at 17 Department of Defense Education Activity facilities. Finally, the bill provides $676 million for military construction or alterations at Guard and Reserve facilities in 25 states.
The bill provides $1.542 billion for family housing construction, family housing operation and maintenance and the homeowners’ assistance program, a decrease of $106 million from the FY 2013 enacted level and the same as the President’s FY 2014 request. The Committee continues the requirement that the Department of Defense submit semi-annual progress reports on the family housing privatization program.
Title II – Department of Veterans Affairs
The bill provides a total of $147.582 billion in both mandatory and discretionary spending to serve the approximately 22.3 million veterans and the 27.1 million family members of living veterans or survivors of deceased veterans. This is a funding increase of 10.2 percent above the FY 2013 enacted level. Of that, $63.120 billion is discretionary spending for veterans programs – $2.13 billion above FY 2013 enacted levels. The bill also includes $55.634 in advance appropriations for FY 2015 for veteran’s medical care.
The bill provides $43.6 billion for veteran’s medical services, including $7.2 billion in mental health care services, $103 million in suicide prevention activities, $246 million for traumatic brain injury treatment, $6.2 billion in homeless veterans’ treatment, services, housing, and job training, and finally, $250 million in rural health initiatives.
The bill contains $344 million in funding to support an integrated electronic health record system. However, H.R. 2216 requires that no more than 25 percent of the funds be distributed until such time that the system is certified by the Secretaries of the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and confirmed by the GAO.
The bill provides $155 million for a paperless claims process system to address the backlog of disability claims and $136 million for digital scanning of health records and benefits. 
The bill provides $1.06 billion for major and minor construction within the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, no funding is provided for major new hospital construction. Of the $1.06 billion, $342 million is made available for major construction – a decrease of $190 million from FY 2013 enacted levels. The Committee continues language that limits the availability of veterans affairs construction funds to five years, which is the same as the limitation included for military construction.
The bill provides mandatory funding for veteran disability compensation programs for 4.2 million veterans and their survivors; post-9-11 GI bill education benefits for more than 764,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 175,000 veterans.
Title III – Related Agencies
As mentioned above, the bill funds four related agencies: American Battle Monuments Commission, Cemeterial Expenses, Army (including funding for Arlington National Cemetery), the United States Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The American Battle Monuments Commission is funded at $57.98 million; $70.7 million is provided for Arlington National Cemetery; $35.27 million is provided for the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs and $67.4 million is provided for the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
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According to CBO, H.R. 2216 provides $152.785 billion ($73.3 in discretionary and $79.5 in mandatory spending) in budget authority for agencies and programs funded through the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.
Below are the amendments that were pre-printed in the Congressional Record. For more information, please contact the respective Member office.
Rep. Griffith (R-VA) Amendment #1 - Page 18, line 8, strike "35,000 per unit" and insert "15,000 per unit".
Rep. Farr (D-CA) Amendment #2 - At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following “Sec.__. None of these funds made available by this Act may be used to implement Veterans Health Administration directive 2011-004 regarding “Access to clinical programs for veterans participating in State-approved marijuana programs.”
Rep. Rothfus (R-PA) Amendment #3 - At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following “Sec.___. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay a performance award under section 5384 of title 5, United States Code."