There will be about 1 million new veterans added to the 22 million American veterans as active-duty service members leave the military over the next five years.
This increase in veterans to serve means a larger budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs. President Barack Obama’s proposed budget includes $140.3 billion for the VA to cover the 2012 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The budget proposal now must be approved by Congress. It is about a 10 percent increase over the last VA budget.
The VA must balance their budget while caring for the needs of soldiers returning from more than 10 years of war in the Middle East with the agency’s commitments to veterans from previous conflicts.
The requested budget includes $76 billion for mandatory spending, mostly for pensions and disability compensation. It also includes $64 billion in discretionary funds, most of which goes into medical care, according to the VA.
The VA’s budget supports a health care system with 8.8 million beneficiaries and its programs service 12 million veterans, families and servicemembers. It also supports home loan guarantees, education benefits, the eighth largest program for life insurance in the country, and America’s largest cemetery system.
The VA expects almost 6.5 million patients will use the agency for their health care during the next fiscal year. The President’s budget includes a medical care increase of about 4.1 percent over last year to $52.7 billion. These increases include upgrades in funding for mental health care and gender-specific health care for female veterans coming home from war, according to the VA.
The health care budget also includes $792 million to activate new health care facilities in Orlando, Fla., New Orleans, Denver and Las Vegas. Almost $400 million is flagged for continued construction on medical units in St. Louis, Dallas, Seattle and Palo Alto, Calif.
The proposed VA budget also includes funding for a new jobs program called the Veterans Jobs Corps. This new initiative is designed to leverage skills that veterans attained during military service for a variety of jobs in the United States. The Veterans Jobs Corps could put as many as 20,000 veterans to work here rebuilding or restoring public lands.
The budget also funds efforts to combat veteran homelessness issues. There is almost $1.4 billion set aside for efforts that will treat or prevent homelessness among veterans in the FY 2013 budget. This 33 percent increase represents a commitment to end veteran homelessness by 2015.