Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Funding Bill Fails to Honor Our Commitment to Veterans
House Republicans cannot claim to fully fund veterans’ programs with a bill that does not fully fund the Toxic Exposures Fund and underfunds military construction projects.
Every Republican on the Committee already voted to immediately cut $2 billion from veterans in the Default on America Act.
WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee Republicans today released the 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation fails to fully meet veterans’ benefits, health care, and other needs and falls short of adequately funding military construction projects.
The legislation is an attempt to hide the fact that House Republicans already voted to immediately rescind $2 billion from funding for claims processing and appeals, health care both within and outside of VA, research, and education and training for veterans as part of the Default on America Act.
- Drastically underfunds by $14.7 billion the Toxic Exposures Fund, created with bipartisan support in the PACT Act to ensure veterans exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances will always be cared for.
- Underfunds other veterans’ medical care needs by allowing the transfer of $4.5 billion in medical care funding to areas outside of health care.
- Cuts funding for critical military construction. The bill backtracks on our promises to our servicemembers and their families by cutting military construction by over $1.3 billion compared to the current level.
- Built on a framework that fails to treat veterans’ medical care as its own funding category, thereby jeopardizing veterans’ medical care.
“This subcommittee bill clearly fails to honor the commitments we made to our veterans, and falls far short of offsetting the immediate, gaping $2 billion rescission to health care, claims and appeals processing, research, and education and training for veterans that Republicans just voted for,” Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) said. “The illusory increases Republicans claim here in fact breaks a bipartisan promise to protect those exposed to burn pits by severely underfunding the Toxic Exposures Fund. It also deceptively hides the fact that much steeper cuts are in store for the housing, food, and job assistance programs our veterans need. For servicemembers and their families, this bill rolls back vital progress in PFAS remediation and cleanup, privatized housing oversight, and shortchanges climate resiliency investments our fighting forces need to keep us safe. This is a disappointing, deceptive, and potentially devastating bill for our veterans and our brave servicemembers and their families and plays right into Republicans’ larger plan to slash government funding in FY24.”
“Our veterans, servicemembers, and their families have made immense sacrifices to protect and serve our nation, and it is our duty to make sure they have the support they need and deserve. This bill reneges on that promise and threatens to leave thousands of veterans without food and shelter,” Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) said. “House Republicans still cannot claim to fully fund our veterans. Less than a year ago, we passed the bipartisan PACT Act, and now House Republicans are showing their true colors by shortchanging our veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances by $14.7 billion. By withholding the other bills, Republicans are hiding the full scope of their cuts. If House Republicans double down on their attack on SNAP in the Agriculture funding bill, they will threaten the food security of the 1.3 million veterans who rely on SNAP, and when they propose to cut more than 22 percent from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the 50,000 veterans who rely on Housing Choice Vouchers will be put at risk. At the 2022 level for the Department of Labor, more than 4,200 veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness would lose the support they so desperately need. This bill is a failed attempt to cover up their recently-passed bill that immediately rescinds $2 billion for veterans, but we—and millions of veterans across the country—can see through this charade.”
A summary of the draft 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is below. The full text of the bill is here. The subcommittee markup will be webcast live and linked on the House Committee on Appropriations website.
Department of Defense – The bill provides $17.7 billion for Military Construction, which is $1.3 billion below the 2023 level.
- The bill provides $539 million for the Department of Defense Base Closure Account (BRAC), which is a cut of $35 million compared to the current level and does not include dedicated funding for PFAS remediation and cleanup.
- The bill does not include additional, dedicated funding for military installation climate change and resilience projects, which is a cut of $90 million from the current level.
- The bill does not include additional, dedicated funding for the oversight of privatized housing, which is a cut of $30 million.
Department of Veterans Affairs – The bill provides $138 billion for the four Medical Care accounts but does so at the expense of other discretionary priorities across the federal government.
- The bill underfunds the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund (TEF) by $14.7 billion, rejecting the dedicated, special funding agreed to on a bipartisan basis in the Honoring our PACT Act.
- The Toxic Exposures Fund supports dedicated funding for veterans’ healthcare and services related to exposure to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances.
- Shortchanging the Toxic Exposures Fund pits funding for toxic exposure-related care against all other discretionary priorities, both within VA and across the entire federal government.
- Republicans are reneging on their bipartisan promise to protect and support funding for veterans as a result of the PACT Act by only providing $5.5 billion for the TEF and instead making up the difference by utilizing scarce discretionary dollars.
- The bill allows $4.5 billion from the Medical Facilities account to be transferred to the major and minor construction accounts outside of Medical Care, further subjecting veterans to medical care cuts.
The bill also contains partisan riders including the:
- Prohibition on the use of funds to teach or promote Critical Race Theory.
- Prohibition on the use of funds to implement executive orders related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Prohibition on the use of funds to carry out the closure or realignment of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay or to house detainees at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.