What’s in Trump's 2020 budget request for veterans?

Matt Saintsing
March 11, 2019 - 1:11 pm
President Donald Trump unveiled his budget request Monday, and is requesting $93 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs

Photo by Al Drago/ Sipa USA

President Donald Trump is asking for more than $220 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2020, a 9.6 percent increase, the administration unveiled in their annual budget request. 

The fiscal 2020 budget request, entitled "A Budget for a Better America"  submitted to Congress on Monday, calls for $2.7 trillion in spending cuts while bolstering funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense Department. However, the proposal also includes a controversial cut into veterans' cost-of-living adjustments-- a plan that was in Trump's 2018 proposed budget, but was ultimately scrapped when veteran groups and Congress objected. 

 “Few deserve our Nation’s care and resources more than the veterans who have sacrificed their lives to keep our country safe,” the White House said in a statement announcing the budget request. 

“President’s FY2020 Budget makes significant investments in veteran rehabilitation services, education and employment assistance, and suicide prevention.” 

Here’s how that mostly breaks down: 

  • $97 billion for discretionary spending, such as health care, benefits and cemetery funding. That's an increase of $6.8 billion over last year's approved funds. 
  • $123 billion in mandatory funding, which includes housing, compensation, pensions.
  • $4.3 billion for IT investments, including a $200 million increase to renew an “aging network infrastructure.”
  • $1.6 billion to continue to implement a new electronic health record (EHR) system between the VA and DoD, “by bringing all patient data into one common system.”   
  • $1.2 billion for breaking ground on a new hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, finishing construction at other medical facilities and expanding VA’s national cemeteries. 

There's also $547 million for programs dedicated to women veterans, and $9.4 billion for veteran suicide prevention. 

“The budget provides the necessary resources to meet the Nation’s commitment to veterans to help them recover from illnesses, injuries, or wounds sustained in service and to enable their successful reintegration into civilian life,” the budget reads. 

The request drew praise from Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs' ranking member, who said the budget "will allow VA to continue to improve and serve our veterans." 

"I am pleased to see that VA received a record budget, particularly when it comes to investments in health care for our veterans," said Roe. 

"This budget would provide funding to implement the significant reforms passed last Congress, including the landmark VA MISSION Act," added Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "In addition, this budget plan would also provide critical funding for a new Electronic Health Record system to integrate healthcare records between the Department of Defense and the VA into one system."

But over on the other side of the aisle, it's another story. 

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the document an "Alice in Wonderland Dream." 

Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said that taking an axe to domestic problems will end up hurting veterans. 

"VA is charged with providing the best healthcare possible for our veterans—that means ensuring we’re investing in the research and infrastructure needs for our increasingly diverse veterans population," said Takano.

"But with significant reductions in medical research and infrastructure funding—both historically underfunded areas— the proposed budget will hurt our veterans."

He added that "we must invest in domestic programs that support veterans and their families. This proposed budget puts that care and support at risk.”

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