One of our country’s most sacred obligations is to care for America’s veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. Last year, the President delivered on this commitment by signing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act), the most significant bill in American history to address veterans’ exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances. Under the law, more than 5 million veterans will be eligible for services, including expanded access to healthcare and disability compensation benefits. Under the President’s leadership, the Administration has also taken action to address veteran suicide, advance equity across veterans’ services, and expand access to specialized cancer screenings and reproductive health care.
The Budget builds on this progress with proposals to honor America’s commitment to veterans and military families:
Expands Health Care, Benefits, and Services for Military Environmental Exposures. The PACT Act represents the most significant expansion of VA healthcare and disability compensation benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other environmental exposures in more than 30 years. As part of the PACT Act, the Congress authorized the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund (TEF) to fund increased costs above 2021 funding levels for health care and benefits delivery for veterans exposed to a number of environmental hazards—and ensure there is sufficient funding available to cover these costs without shortchanging other elements of veteran medical care and benefit delivery. The Budget provides $20.3 billion for the TEF in 2024, which is $15.3 billion above the 2023 enacted level.
Prioritizes VA Medical Care. The Budget provides a total of $121 billion in discretionary medical care funding in 2024, $2.3 billion above the 2023 enacted level, together with $17.1 billion in the TEF. In addition to fully funding inpatient, outpatient, mental health, and long-term care services, the Budget supports programs that enhance VA healthcare quality and delivery. The Budget reiterates that medical care for veterans should be considered separately from other appropriations categories in order to ensure that the needs of veterans are never traded off against other national priorities.
Prioritizes Veterans’ Mental Health Services and Suicide Prevention. The Budget invests $139 million within VA research programs, together with $16.6 billion within the VA Medical Care program, to increase access to quality mental healthcare and lower the cost of mental health services for veterans, with the goal of helping veterans take charge of their treatment and live full, meaningful lives. This effort includes support for the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, clinical trials, and epidemiological studies on risk and prevention factors. In addition, the Budget provides $559 million to further advance the Administration’s veteran suicide prevention initiatives, including continued expansion of the Veterans Crisis Line’s nationwide 988 number for 24/7 support and additional support for VA’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
Create a Housing Voucher Guarantee for Extremely Low-Income Veterans. The President believes that no one should be forced to live on the street, especially not those who have served our nation. But an estimated 450,000 veteran renter households with extremely low incomes currently receive no rental assistance and have what HUD terms “worst-case housing needs.” Over a ten-year period and at a cost of $13 billion, the Budget expands rental assistance to extremely low-income (ELI) veteran families, starting with an allocation of 50,000 targeted vouchers in 2025 and paving a path to guaranteed assistance by 2033 for all who have served the Nation and are in need.
Honors the Memory of All Veterans. The Budget includes $480 million to ensure veterans and their families have access to exceptional memorial benefits. These funds maintain national shrine standards at the 158 VA-managed cemeteries and provide the initial operational investment required to continue or begin activation to open three new national cemeteries.
Invests in Critical Veteran Medical Facilities. The Budget includes $1.6 billion in discretionary funding and $1.9 billion in mandatory funding for construction and expansion of critical infrastructure and facilities, in addition to a $5 billion investment in discretionary medical care for non-recurring maintenance to improve medical facility infrastructure. In addition, the Budget provides $164 million for grants for construction of State extended care facilities to deliver high-quality healthcare, benefits, and services for veterans.
Invests in Caregivers Support Programs. Recognizing the critical role family caregivers play in supporting the health and wellness of veterans, the Budget provides robust funding for the VA’s Program of General Caregivers Support Services. The Budget provides $2.4 billion for the Caregivers Support Program, including the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which includes stipend payments and support services to help empower family caregivers of eligible veterans.
Supports America’s Commitment to Military Families. Military families are key to the readiness and well-being of the All-Volunteer Force, and therefore are critical to national security. The Budget continues to support military families by prioritizing programs, including the Secretary of Defense’s Taking Care of People initiatives, that directly support military families, caregivers, and survivors. Specific programming increases include the further expansion of community-based child care fee assistance, a public private partnership to increase child care capacity, and a reduction in parent fees for child care workers in order to recruit and retain staff. The Budget also invests $20 million through the Department of Education to ensure military-connected children with disabilities and other highly mobile children with disabilities maintain services when they change school districts.
Expands Employment Protections for Military Spouses. Military families make significant sacrifices on behalf of the Nation, including overcoming the many challenges that spouses of active-duty service and reserve members experience in finding and retaining good jobs. A Department of Defense survey found that 33 percent of military families had experienced a permanent change in location within the last 12 months. Spouses of military servicemembers often face discrimination from current and prospective employers due to the frequent and unpredictable nature of deployment and relocations. The Budget addresses these challenges by expanding anti-discrimination and reemployment protections to spouses of all active-duty and reserve members, which would allow them to more easily find and keep good jobs.
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