By REBECCA NEAL | Last Updated: November 17, 2009
The Senate set aside $48.2 billion in fiscal 2011 appropriations for Veterans Affairs Department medical programs as part of the 2010 military construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill it approved Nov. 17. The advanced 2011 appropriation is a victory for veterans’ service organizations, which have pushed for two-year budget cycles to create a more reliable revenue source for VA hospitals. The advanced appropriation would fund medical facilities, medical services, and medical support and compliance. The fiscal 2010 spending bill, which passed unanimously, contains $133.9 billion, including $76.7 billion in discretionary spending. That’s $439 million more in discretionary spending than President Barack Obama requested and $3.8 billion more than in 2009. The bill includes $23.2 billion for military construction, including $7.5 billion for 2005 base realignment and closure projects and $421.8 million for 1990 BRAC projects. VA would receive $53.2 billion in discretionary spending, $150 million more than the president requested. The plus-up provides more resources for homeless veterans and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as for 1,200 new Veterans Benefits Administration claims processors. When those hires are made, VBA’s Compensation and Pension department will have 14,549 employees, compared with 7,550 in 2005. The bill now goes to a conference committee to work out differences with the House bill, which provided $77.9 billion in discretionary spending.