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house Bill H.R. 2577

$81.6 Billion in Funding for the VA, Military Construction, and Zika in FY2017

Argument in favor

Congress has a responsibility to fulfill its obligations to veterans, members of the military and their families. This bill allows for over $81 billion to be spent on those goals, ~$2 billion more than last year. Additionally, the bill provides long-overdue funding to fight the Zika virus.

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06/05/2015
This is the best we can do under the current fiscal climate. I support this bill.
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ptcdcs's Opinion
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04/30/2016
Our national debt has grown to a tremendous level, and we must do something to combat it.
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Stephone's Opinion
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09/05/2016
Our veterans do not receive nearly enough compensation for one of the bravest and most courageous acts a person could ever commit; laying down there lives to protect our values. Additional funding to mental health and the issue of homeless veterans are long overdue. I agree that the level of where our infrastructure stands is beyond laughable, however our people should always come first and we needed this yesterday.
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Argument opposed

There’s a lot to like about this bill, but denying bonuses to all managers at the VA is a petty provision that needs to be removed. Additionally, the provision that provides funding for fighting Zika unnecessarily excludes Planned Parenthood from receiving funding.

JMandel's Opinion
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06/04/2015
It's time for America to invest more - not less - in its public infrastructure.
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ThomasParker's Opinion
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06/04/2015
Yet again government spending increases in a time when we need to be reducing it. Simply slowing the growth rate of spending is not enough to fight the dangerous growth of federal control.
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Michelle's Opinion
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06/03/2015
We need our infrastructure updated. Everything is falling apart because it's old.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate Passed May 19th, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 89 Yea / 8 Nay
      senate Committees
      Committee on Appropriations
  • The house Passed June 23rd, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 239 Yea / 171 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Appropriations
    IntroducedMay 27th, 2015

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What is House Bill H.R. 2577?

Update June 27, 2016: This bill was co-opted through the amendment process from its original form to serve as the legislative vehicle for funding the fight against the Zika virus.

Originally, this bill provided for infrastructure, before it was changed to provide funding for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and for military construction and housing projects. However, after the bill was introduced to the House, an amendment was added that re-allocated $1.1 billion in funding for fighting the Ebola virus to preventing, preparing, and responding to the Zika virus.

Additionally, while the original contents of the bill haven’t been changed, the amendment also added provisions to the bill that aren’t Zika related. Specifically, the new provisions:

  • Restrict the display of Confederate flags in VA cemeteries;

  • Allow VA providers to complete forms to permit a veteran's participation in a medical marijuana program, and

  • Prohibit the use of funds for closing U.S. military bases.

The original contents of the bill would authorize $81.6 billion in funding for military construction projects, training and equipping members of the military, housing their families, and funding veterans’ benefits and programs through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA). That represents an increase of over $1.8 billion from the 2016 fiscal year, although it is $1.2 billion less than the president’s request.


MILITARY CONSTRUCTION

A total of $7.9 billion would be made available for military construction projects, which is a decrease of $305 million from fiscal year 2016 but $250 more than the president’s request. This funding would go to large and small construction or renovation projects at military bases within the U.S. and around the world. $172 million of this funding would be focused on Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and European Reassurance Initiative projects involving overseas bases.

Military Family Housing​

$1.3 billion would fund the construction, operation, and maintenance of military family housing for fiscal year 2017, which meets the president’s budget request but is $84 million less than the previous year. There are currently 1,388,028 military families that are served by this program.

Military Medical Facilities​

This section provides $304 million for the construction and alteration for new or existing military medical facilities, matching the president’s budget request but decreasing funding by $303 million from the prior year. A total of 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries are or can be served by these facilities.

​NATO Security Investment Program (NSIP)​

The NSIP would see its funding rise by $43 million from fiscal year 2016 to a level of $178 million, matching the president’s budget request. This program funds infrastructure needed for wartime and crisis activities, peacekeeping support, deterrence operations, and training for NATO as it confronts challenges from Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Guantanamo Bay​

The closure of Guantanamo Bay Naval Station would be prohibited by this legislation, in addition to blocking funding for any facility within the U.S. that would house detainees.

Miscellaneous

$673 million would go to construction at National Guard and Reserve facilities in 21 states, an increase of $122 million from the 2016 fiscal year. Another $246 million would go to safety improvements and infrastructure work at four Dept. of Defense (DOD) Education Activities facilities located in the U.S. and overseas.



VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)

This bill authorizes a total of $176.1 billion in both discretionary and mandatory spending at the VA, which is $13.4 billion more than fiscal year 2016. Of that total, this bill breaks down what the $73.5 billion in discretionary spending goes toward, which represents a $2.1 billion increase over the previous year. Part of that increase would be $850 million aimed at focusing on treating hepatitis C, long-term care for veterans, support services for veterans’ caregivers, and to fighting veteran homelessness.

​Oversight​

To prevent further mismanagement or wasteful spending at the VA and improve the care received by veterans, several oversight and accountability provisions are included in this bill. These include limiting transfers between construction projects, reports about bid savings, limiting changes to the scope of projects, and preventing certain spending without notifying Congress. Additionally, all Senior Executive Service Managers at the VA would be prohibited from receiving bonuses.

VA Medical Services​

$52.5 billion would go to VA medical services which would allow for about 7 million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2017. Some of this total would be spent in the following ways:

  • $7.8 billion for mental healthcare services;
  • $7.2 billion for homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training;
  • $284 million for traumatic brain injury treatment;
  • $250 million in rural veterans health programs;
  • $164 million in suicide prevention activities.

An additional $260 million would be made available for the modernization of the VA electronic health record system.

​​Disability Claims Processing Backlog​

To address the backlog of processing disability claims, this legislation would provide for the following to be spent:

  • $180 million for the paperless claims processing system;
  • $153 million for health records to be digitally scanned;
  • $27 million for centralized mail.
  • $156 million would be provided to the Board of Veterans Appeals — a $46 million increase — to support the work of 242 new staff members dealing with claims appeals.

Construction​

This bill would match the president’s request of $900 million for major and minor VA construction projects.

VA Mandatory Funding​

The $102.6 billion in mandatory spending authorized by this bill would go to a number of different areas, including:
  • Veterans disability compensation to 4.8 million veterans and their survivors;
  • Education benefits through the GI Bill for nearly 1.1 million veterans;
  • Vocational rehabilitation and employment training for over 140,000 veterans.

​Advance Appropriations​
To ensure that veterans continue to have access to medical services, support, and facilities for their healthcare needs, this bill makes $66.4 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2018, matching the president’s budget request. It also includes $103.9 billion in advance funding for VA mandatory benefits, which also matches the President’s request. It should be noted that of this year’s total funding, $63.3 billion was provided through advance appropriations.

Impact

People affected by the Zika virus; members of the military, their families, and veterans; the DOD and the VA.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2577

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced this bill to ensure that the programs members of the military, their families, and veterans rely on are fully funded for the next fiscal year:

“It is imperative for our nation to uphold our obligation to care for our veterans, servicemembers, and military families.  This bill meets that promise by providing an unprecedented level of support for the services, projects, and programs that are relied on by our troops and the over 48 million veterans and veteran dependents served  by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  In these times of growing political divisiveness, it’s encouraging to see that vibrant bipartisan support can continue to thrive for those who have made tremendous personal sacrifices.”

While praising many aspects of this bill, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) criticized a provision denying bonuses to VA management because it doesn’t distinguish between high-quality executives in the same group as managers. Additionally, Rep. Lowey noted that attempts to fully fund the president’s request for the Zika virus have been blocked, and said that many of her Democratic colleagues would vote against this and other appropriations bills until Zika funding is provided.

This legislation was approved unanimously by the House Appropriations Committee.

Of Note: The amendment that reallocates funding to fighting the Zika virus has drawn criticism from Democrats for restricting what the funding can be used for. As the New York Times reports, the Zika amendment specifies that no funding for fighting the virus can be given to Planned Parenthood, despite the disease being sexually transmitted. Because of this provision, Democrats in the Senate won’t vote for the bill, and even if it passes, President Obama will likely veto it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can also be sexually transmitted. It is known to cause miscarriage or birth defects like microcephaly if a mother is infected during pregnancy. Symptoms can include mild fever, rash, muscle pain, headache, and red eyes, though some infected people have reported not having any symptoms.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Matthew Allen Hecht)

AKA

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017

Official Title

Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.

    It's time for America to invest more - not less - in its public infrastructure.
    Like (64)
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    Yet again government spending increases in a time when we need to be reducing it. Simply slowing the growth rate of spending is not enough to fight the dangerous growth of federal control.
    Like (18)
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    We need our infrastructure updated. Everything is falling apart because it's old.
    Like (13)
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    There's no way the government can't afford to invest more in our crumbling infrastructure. The government needs to get their priorities straight. Charge some of the mega corporations their fair share of taxes! Stop giving out massive tax breaks! Charge the wealthiest their fair share of taxes! There is money to pay for these this, and it's total B.S. to claim otherwise. It would take real political will.
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    I don't even have my mechanical engineering degree yet and our infrastructure is pathetic and in desperate need of an update. How about we quit funding abstinence education and start funding birth control (cuz we know they're still shagging behind our backs) so states can have money to fund updating our infrastructure.
    Like (8)
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    No context as to what amount of funding and how much needs to be supported, but I suspect that if it has to do with our crumbling and neglected transportation infrastructure, we need strategic investments and sustained support to repair and improve.
    Like (7)
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    Public transportation needs more funding, not less.
    Like (5)
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    It's less funding that last year, and we're in a deficit. We can invest more money into this when we aren't in debt. Please bring a bill to cut military spending as well.
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    Not allocating funding to Planned Parenthood for the Zika virus makes it more likely for the disease to develop in poor areas among populations who are least likely to have access to healthcare. This can create pockets of disease in highly dense inner city areas putting all of us at risk.
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    Stop funding dying or dead infrastructure.
    Like (5)
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    The government has no authority to fund these things and the money that goes into these areas warps them. Get the government funding out. Most of it ends up being corporate welfare.
    Like (4)
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    Provisions regarding Guantanamo got to go. No place for this in funding bill. Planned Parenthood restrictions also petty politics
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    Private companies don't deserve federal money. If they can't make it on their own then they don't deserve to be in business.
    Like (3)
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    This is the best we can do under the current fiscal climate. I support this bill.
    Like (3)
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    Criminally low funding rates. Infrastructure investments have an ROI of 3 to 1 and constitute the undergirding of our physical economy.
    Like (3)
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    I think this is a long over due vote
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    Our (failing) infrastructure needs to be funded & fixed f i r s t. According to government agencies, industry leaders & other experts, if we do not address (repair) our infrastructure in the next few years, it will start to detrimentally effect our economy & we will be unable to compete in the global marketplace. In addition, failing to fund infrastructure repairs (by itself) will pose a nightmarish national security risk.
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    I think we need to invest more in our transportation infrastructure. Cuts to TIGER Grants, lack of innovation, and a crumbling road system are an equation for disaster.
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    Our veterans do not receive nearly enough compensation for one of the bravest and most courageous acts a person could ever commit; laying down there lives to protect our values. Additional funding to mental health and the issue of homeless veterans are long overdue. I agree that the level of where our infrastructure stands is beyond laughable, however our people should always come first and we needed this yesterday.
    Like (2)
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    Not enough, the country needs to be renovated and modernized not exposed to additional austerity measures...
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