It‘s the beginning of budget season for 2017 in Washington and the White House’s budget plan contains some promising news for veterans. President Obama is proposing to allocate $182.3 billion for the VA in what the agency is calling “the largest transformation in VA history, [which will] expand access to timely, high-quality health care and benefits and advance efforts to end homelessness among Veterans.”
The FY 2017 budget calls for $103.6 billion for mandatory benefit programs such as disability compensation and pensions and $78.7 billion in discretionary funding, most of which is earmarked for health care.
“VA has before it one of the greatest opportunities in its history to transform the way it cares for our Veterans who nobly served and sacrificed for our Nation,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.
Here are some of the key areas where the administration’s plans hope to improve services for vets:
To insure “that care and other benefits are available to veterans when and where they need them,” the administration wants to expand access.
By employing new technologies and processes and adding more people to serve veterans the agency says they can improve the efficiency of claims processing.
Appeals Reform is critically needed because, on average, vets are waiting about five years for final decisions on their cases and some wait even much longer. With this expanded budget, President Obama hope to streamline the process, aiming for a one year turnaround on appeals by 2021.
The administration says this budget also puts a priority on ending veterans’ homelessness.
This budget proposal will enhance the oversight of VA programs, the President says, by increasing the budget and number of employees for the Office of Inspector General.
VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald says, “As we work to become a more efficient, effective and responsive, Veteran-centric Department, we can’t do it alone; we need the help of Congress. This year, VA submitted over 100 legislative proposals, including 40 new proposals to better serve Veterans. Our goal is provide the best care to our Veterans while removing obstacles or barriers that prevent them from getting the care they deserve.”