Hoeven Statement on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after the Senate failed to break a filibuster of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which the Senate Appropriations Committee approved in a bipartisan vote of 21 to 9 in May. The measure was blocked today along party lines by a 50 to 44 vote. Only one Democrat, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, voted for the measure.

“The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill is one of the most important measures the Senate takes up, which is why I voted to bring it to the Senate floor. It funds not only essential construction and maintenance projects for the nation’s military facilities, but also important programs for our veterans.

“These include funding for veterans’ health services and benefits, military housing and family support, and hospital and military construction. Importantly for North Dakota veterans, the bill directs the VA to come up with solutions to help veterans access local health care when they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility that can’t the serve their needs.

“In the larger picture, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill is just one of 12 appropriations bills that were approved in committee, many with both Republican and Democratic support, that are now being blocked on a partisan basis. Under the current Continuing Resolution, the Senate has a window of opportunity to restore regular order and do what the American people expect of us: to discuss, debate and pass important legislation in a timely and responsible manner.”


Summary of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill 

The bill totals $77.6 billion in discretionary funding, $5.5 billion above the FY2015 level.  For the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Senate bill includes $69.2 billion in discretionary funding, $4.2 billion over last year’s level.  This includes $48.7 billion for VA medical services.   For military construction, the bill contains $8.1 billion, $1.5 billion above last year’s level.

North Dakota:

North Dakota Air National Guard’s Intelligence Targeting Facility in Fargo: The committee-passed bill includes $7.3 million for the ND Air National Guard’s Intelligence Targeting Facility.  The building will support the new targeting mission in Fargo, including expanding the space available for the mission and creating a secure facility to handle classified information.

Veterans Choice Program and 40 Mile Limit: The committee report includes language that requires the Department of Veteran Affairs to submit a comprehensive cost analysis of the Veterans Choice Program’s 40 mile rule criteria. The report must provide potential solutions that offer veterans access to non-VA care when they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility that can’t provide the medical services a veteran requires.

Military Construction Highlights:

  • Military Family Housing – $1.4 billion to fund construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing
  • Military Medical Facilities – $678 million for construction and alterations for military medical facilities to care for 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries, including our wounded troops abroad.
  • Department of Defense (DOD) Education Facilities – $334 million for safety and infrastructure improvements at 10 DOD school facilities within the U.S. and overseas.
  • Guard and Reserve – $551 million to support the construction needs of the Guard and Reserve, $124 million above the FY2015 enacted level.
  • Missile Defense – $220.4 million provided to fully fund construction of a second missile defense site in Poland.

VA Highlights:

  • VA Mandatory Funding – The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements such as: veteran disability compensation programs for 4.7 million veterans and their survivors; education benefits for nearly 1.2 million veterans; guaranteed home loans for 431,000 veterans; vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 137,000 veterans.
  • VA Medical Services – $48.7 billion to support treatment and care for approximately 6.9 million patients in FY2016.  The bill includes $622 million for research; $446 million for women veterans health care; $4.9 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans; $232 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; and $270 million for rural health initiatives.
  • VA Electronic Health Record – $233 million for continued modernization of the VA electronic health record system. 
  • Disability Claims Processing Backlog – $290 million for the paperless claims processing system, $141 million for digital scanning of health records, and $26 million for centralized mail. 
  • Construction – Nearly $1.4 billion for major and minor construction associated with VA hospital replacement and continued correction of safety issues and deficiencies.