|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Government Affairs, January/February 2023|
New Year's Resolutions: Communicating and Getting Involved in the Legislative Process
This is a Convention year, and to accomplish what is needed will require extensive planning at the state and national levels. With newly elected state and national officers and directors and, more importantly, in some instances new leadership at the chapter and state levels, it is of utmost importance that we communicate and work with committee chairs and state council presidents frequently and in a timely manner.
Participation from the committee chairs and state council presidents in the past has been less than perfect. It is important for the membership to receive information in a timely manner, especially if feedback is needed for VVA to make critical decisions. Without the support of the committee chairs and state council presidents, we are wasting our time.
In the past, we have planned Zoom meetings, only to wind up canceling them because of a lack of member participation. It is critical that all of us make the effort to join Zoom meetings, as we need as much planning time as possible.
It is also important for each state council president to have a legislative assistant to provide the membership with the information to keep them up-to-date on all the issues VVA deals with. If the chapters are able, they should also have a legislative assistant.
Members should get to know their state and national elected officials and call or visit them periodically. We are in the process of putting together a handout for members to use to establish contact with their elected officials. The key is to get involved in the process and remind them that if assistance is needed, VVA is more than willing to help.
THE FY2023 SPENDING BILL
On December 30, Congress approved, and the President signed into law, the 4,155-page, $1.7 trillion omnibus government funding bill. The package, approved on a 68-29 Senate vote and by a vote of 225-201 in the House, makes consolidated appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2023, including emergency assistance for Ukraine.
The law appropriates funding for the following Department of Veterans Affairs programs: $118.7 billion for VA medical care, including $13.9 billion for mental health; $5.2 billion to sustain and increase telehealth capacity, including in rural, highly rural, and underserved communities; $12.1 billion for veterans’ long-term care; $2.7 billion for veteran homelessness prevention; $1.9 billion for the Caregivers Program; $840.5 million for women’s health; $337 million for rural health; $5.8 billion for information technology systems critical for cyber security and delivery of health care and benefits to veterans; $3.9 billion for VBA operating expenses and claims processors; $3 billion for VA infrastructure; $88.6 million for a Fort Harrison construction project improving infrastructure for better health care delivery and services for veterans; $916 million for medical and prosthetics research, including in areas such as toxic exposures, traumatic brain injury, and precision oncology; $273 million for VA’s Office of Inspector General to continue aggressive oversight and investigations of waste, fraud, and abuse in VA programs; $15 million for the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence to assist in better understanding the effects of exposure to open burn pits and airborne hazards on the health of veterans.
The law appropriates funding for the following Department of Defense programs: $19 billion for military construction projects including: $2 billion for family housing; $93.4 million for Arlington National Cemetery and $62.5 million for the southern expansion; $293 million for Child Development Centers; $1.2 billion to support the Pacific Defense Initiative; $500 million for projects that support the European Defense Initiative; $220 million to fund the U.S. cost share of NATO Military Construction projects in the NATO Security Investment Program; $200 million for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid cleanup on closed military bases. Go to https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/hr2617/BILLS-117hr2617enr.pdf and search “Division J and U” for details about the VA provisions in P.L. 117-328.
The 118th Congress began meeting in January, and VVA looks forward to collaborating with legislators on legislative priorities and policy initiatives.
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