Today, Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42) joined a bipartisan majority of the House Appropriations Committee in approving the Fiscal Year 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. The spending bill provides funding for necessary improvements at March Air Reserve Base and for Riverside County veterans.
"March Air Reserve Base continues to play an increasing role in support of our military operations around globe and the funding included for these projects reflects the importance of investing in the critical facilities needed to maintain that role," said Rep. Calvert. "By replacing outdated facilities we can improve military efficiency and capabilities while providing our service members with the modern workplace they deserve."
"I'm also pleased the bill funds overdue electronic health records and other system-wide improvements at the VA. The benefits backlog at the VA is simply unacceptable so the Committee is investing in technology and taking steps that will hold the VA accountable. Our veterans deserve nothing less than a functioning and responsive VA system."
The bill provided funding for the following projects at March Air Reserve Base:
Joint Regional Deployment Processing Center - Phase 1
The provided funding will allow for the construction of Phase I of the Joint Regional Deployment Processing Center at March Air Reserve Base, which serves to process military personnel from I Marine Expeditionary Force, 452nd Air Mobility Wing, Army Reserves, and Federal and State entities for deployment in support of global missions. The existing facilities are outdated, reducing throughput capabilities, causing length processing times, and fail to meet current Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP) standards.
NOSC Moreno Valley Reserve Training Center
The provided funding will allow for the construction of a new facility to house the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Moreno Valley Training Center. Construction of the new structure will allow the Navy to forego an expensive renovation of the current, aging structure. Furthermore, as a result of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission realignment of March Air Force Base and language in the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, the NOSC Moreno Valley must relocate to a new site. The current structure does not meet AT/FP standards and the new structure will meet all applicable requirements and meet the needs of the approximately 550 personnel assigned to NOSC Moreno Valley.
Veterans Affairs Funding (VA)
The legislation includes a total of $147.6 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This funding will help provide our nation’s veterans with the services and care they have earned from their dedicated service to the country.
Discretionary funding for Veterans programs in the bill is $63.1 billion – $2.1 billion above the enacted fiscal year 2013 level. Approximately $54.5 billion of this discretionary total was provided last year via advance funding in the fiscal year 2013 Appropriations bill.
· VA Medical Services –The bill funds VA medical services at $43.6 billion – providing for approximately 6.5 million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2014. Some of these funds include: $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $103 million in suicide prevention activities; $246 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $6.2 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
· DOD-VA Electronic Health Record – The bill contains $344 million in funding to jumpstart a single, integrated Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs electronic health record system. The legislation requires that a unified system be certified by the Secretaries of DOD and the VA, and confirmed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), before the majority of funding for the program is released.
· Disability Claims Processing Backlog – To help the VA meet its goal of ending the disability compensation claims backlog by 2015, the bill provides $155 million for the paperless claims process system and $136 million for digital scanning of health records. In addition, rigorous reporting requirements would be put into place to track the performance of each regional office on claims processing.
· Oversight –The legislation includes provisions to increase oversight of taxpayer dollars at the VA, including requiring the agency to report on construction expenditures and savings, forbidding new changes in the scope of construction projects, and restricting the agency from taking certain spending actions without notifying Congress.