H.R. 4486, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015

H.R. 4486

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015

Committee
Appropriations

Date
April 30, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, April 30, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4486, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015, under an open rule.  H.R. 4486 was introduced on April 17, 2014 by Representative John Culberson (R-TX), Chairman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. The bill was reported out of the House Appropriations Committee, as amended, on April 9, 2014 by voice vote.[1]

____________________
[1] See http://beta.congress.gov/113/crpt/hrpt416/CRPT-113hrpt416.pdf.

Bill Summary

“The Committee recommends $165 billion in budget authority for the fiscal year 2015 programs and activities funded in the bill. The fiscal year 2015 recommendation is an increase of $7 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $398 million below the President’s request. Included in this amount is $93 billion in mandatory budget authority and $71 billion in discretionary budget authority.”[1]

“The total recommended funding level for military construction and family housing is $6.6 billion which is $3.3 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the same as the budget request. Much of these savings can be attributed to current price stability, a favorable bid climate, and a reduced need for new construction projects in some areas.  During hearings, the Department testified that while this budget reduction assumes some risk, the Services chose to take risk in the military construction program in order to reduce risk in readiness accounts. The Services also noted that many factors are currently under review, such as force structure and European basing, which may impact construction needs. The Committee, while concerned by the reduction, acknowledges the merit of these issues.  The Committee also acknowledges that the success of the Housing Privatization Program has dramatically reduced the need for family housing construction.  Additionally, Congress has provided substantial funding in recent years through BRAC construction projects in excess of $24,000,000,000 and through funding initiatives for Guard and Reserve construction, barracks, hospitals and schools.”[2]

“The total funding level for fiscal year 2015 for the Department of Veterans Affairs is $158 billion, an increase of 7.0 percent over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level [$10.3 billion above FY 2014]. Of the total, $93 billion is provided for mandatory benefit programs and $65 billion is allocated to discretionary programs such as medical care, claims processing, and construction. Discretionary funding increases by 2.3 percent. In addition to funds for fiscal year 2015, of which approximately $56 billion has already been appropriated in advance, the Committee recommendation includes $59 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2016 for the three health care accounts of the Department.”[3]

Specifically, the bill supports VA medical services at $45 billion allowing 6.7 million patients to be treated in FY 2015, including funding for mental health care, suicide prevention, traumatic brain injury treatment, homeless veterans programs, and rural health initiatives; increases funding for digital scanning of health records, centralized mail, and overtime by $20 million to end the backlog by 2015; maintains strict reporting requirements that allow regional office performance to be tracked; demands the timely and accurate exchange of medical data between VA, DoD, and the private sector to ensure our veterans get the best medical care possible; contains $344 million for the modernization of the VA electronic health record system; and holds the VA accountable by restricting funding until the Department ensures that its system will be operable with DoD’s record.[4]

____________________
[1] See id, p. 3.
[2] See id.
[3] See id.
[4] See House Committee on Appropriations FY 2015 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill Fact Sheet.

Cost

According to CBO, if enacted, H.R. 4486 would result in a discretionary budget authority of $71 billion.

Amendments

(Pre-printed Amendments, as Reflected in the Congressional Records dated April 28, 2014 and April 29, 2014)

1) Rep. Rothfus (R-PA) Amendment #1At 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.  

2) Rep. Takano (D-CA) Amendment #2 At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following: Sec. ____.  None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act for the All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program under chapter 30 of title 38, United States Code, or the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program under chapter 33 of such title may be used for recruiting or marketing activities.

3) Rep. Takano (D-CA) Amendment #3 At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following: Sec. ____.  None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act for the All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program under chapter 30 of title 38, United States Code, or the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program under chapter 33 of such title may be used for career education programs at proprietary institutions unless the successful completion of the curriculum fully qualifies a student – 1) to take an examination required for entry into an occupation or profession, including satisfying all State-mandated programmatic and specialized accreditation requirements; and 2) to be certified or licensed or to meet other academically-related pre-conditions of employment in the State in which the institution is located.

4) Rep. Turner (R-OH) Amendment #4 Page 4, line 19, insert after the dollar amount the following: “(reduced by $20,000,000)(increased by $20,000,000).”  Page 5, line 3, insert after the dollar amount the following: “(increased by $20,000,000)”.

5) Rep. Moran (D-VA) Amendment #5 Page 60, beginning on line 10, strike section 411.

Additional Information

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 4486 – Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015
(Rep. Rogers, R-Kentucky)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides views on H.R. 4486, making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes.  The Administration supports investments in military infrastructure, housing, and services for men and women in our armed forces and their families.  H.R. 4486, however, does not provide the President’s budget request for Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) medical care and includes unnecessary restrictions that could undermine national security and the provision of benefits to our veterans.

The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to move forward with an orderly appropriations process that supports economic growth, opportunity, and our national security while avoiding unnecessary fiscal crises that hold the Nation’s economy back.  This process should include reconciling funding levels for individual appropriations bills to promote economic growth, and national security, and passing bills without ideological provisions that could undermine an orderly appropriations process.

The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 Budget provides a roadmap for making investments to accelerate economic growth, expand opportunity for all hard-working Americans, and ensure our national security, while continuing to improve the Nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.  At the same time, the Budget takes key steps to both continue and enhance the Administration’s efforts to deliver a Government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth.

The President’s Budget adheres to the FY 2015 spending levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) and shows the choices the President would make at those levels – including strong support for our nation’s servicemembers and veterans.  However, the levels agreed to in the BBA are already below FY 2007 funding levels adjusted for inflation and are not sufficient – either in FY 2015 or beyond – to ensure the Nation is achieving its full potential.  For that reason, the Budget also includes a fully paid for Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative – evenly split between defense and non-defense priorities – that presents additional investments to grow the economy, expand opportunity, and enhance security.  The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative would support our servicemembers and veterans by providing additional resources for military construction and family housing projects that satisfy new requirements or replace obsolete facilities, as well as high priority VA capital projects to address critical safety issues, improve VA services, and meet the increased demand for veterans’ services.

The Administration would like to take this opportunity to share additional views regarding the Committee’s version of the bill and urges Congress to resolve these issues during the FY 2015 appropriations process.

Veterans Affairs Funding. The Administration is disappointed with the funding level for VA Medical Care, which is $368 million below the President’s request. This funding level could delay the timely delivery of health care services to veterans and impede the Administration’s efforts to end veterans’ homelessness in 2015. Further, the bill provides $50 million below the request for Information Technology operations and maintenance programs, which may result in delayed technology infrastructure improvements that ensure continuity of operations for services that support all of VA’s services and benefit delivery.

Electronic Health Records.  The Administration appreciates the funding level provided for electronic health record interoperability and VistA Evolution, but objects to the continued restriction on obligations for VistA modernization efforts.  The Administration is committed to achieving seamless data integration and interoperability between the Department of Defense, VA, and also with private healthcare providers.  Significant steps toward improved interoperability have already been taken, including deployment of a joint legacy viewer to view patient records and improvement of data standardization between the Departments and patient identity management within both Departments.  Additional capabilities are planned to continue to improve efforts to share standards-based, computable data among the Departments, private sector providers, and patients.  Uncertainty in funding availability will delay needed enhancements for improved clinical decision support and better care for veterans.

Military Construction.  The Administration appreciates the overall level of funding provided by the Committee for military construction and family housing.  The projects requested in the FY 2015 Budget reflect the highest priority projects for the Department of Defense, and the Administration supports full funding for each of those projects.

Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex (JIAC) Consolidations Project.  The Administration strongly objects to the Committee eliminating funding for the JIAC.  This consolidated intelligence analysis center, which supports both U.S. and NATO activities, would facilitate multi-national training and promote international intelligence sharing and interoperability.  Its proximity to counterpart organizations would enable collaboration and enhance our ability to function effectively in coalition contingency operations.  This project was reviewed as part of the European Infrastructure process, and would achieve important infrastructure savings while helping fill U.S. intelligence gaps.

Detainee Matters.  The Administration strongly opposes section 411 of the Committee bill, which would prohibit the use of funds to construct, renovate, or expand any facility in the United States to house individuals held in the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.  Although the Administration appreciates that the prohibition does not apply to modifications of facilities at Guantánamo Bay, it would nevertheless constrain the flexibility that the Nation’s Armed Forces and counterterrorism professionals need to best protect U.S. national security, intruding upon the Executive Branch’s ability to carry out its mission.

The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the FY 2015 appropriations process moves forward.

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.