$164 Billion Sought for VA

Veterans would benefit from expanded health care and a faster claims-processing system, under the proposed $164 billion 2015 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs the Obama administration submitted to Congress March 4. Much of the $68.4 billion intended for discretionary spending would cover health care, while a large portion of the $95.6 billion for mandatory programs would pay for disability compensation and pensions. The health-care package includes: $7.2 billion for mental health; $2.6 billion for prosthetics; $561 million for spinal cord injuries; $229 million for traumatic brain injuries; $238 million for readjustment counseling; and $7 billion for long-term care. The measure also calls for $312 million to attack the byzantine backlog of unresolved benefits claims, much of which to be used to improve electronic claims processing and convert paper records to electronic ones. Other key provisions would address homelessness ($1.6 billion) and administer the VA’s cemetery system ($257 million).