The Independent Budget
Veterans Agenda for the 116th Congress
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(added January 17, 2019)
After nearly two decades of war, the commitment of a grateful nation to its veterans who have borne the battle and their families remains strong. The 115th Congress resulted in the passage of several major pieces of legislation that have expanded benefits and will result in the creation of new programs and reform existing ones in an effort to improve the lives of veterans. It is through this lens that The Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs)—Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars—have worked to develop and present concrete recommendations to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) remains fully-funded and capable of carrying out its mission to serve veterans and their families both now and in the future.
In light of the calls of some to further privatize VA health care and concerns about rising budget deficits, we remain ever vigilant to ensure that veterans and their families receive the benefits and health care services that they have earned and deserve. The IBVSOs hold dear the longstanding responsibility of highlighting for the Administration, Congress, VA, and the American people, the unique benefits, specialized health care, infrastructure, education, employment, training, and memorial concerns and challenges being faced by our members, their families, and all veterans. Our decades of experience set the IBVSOs apart in the veterans’ community. Through The Independent Budget, we harness that experience and present real solutions to the concerns facing all of today’s veterans.
The Independent Budget Authors
The three co-authoring organizations have worked in collaboration for more than 30 years to produce The Independent Budget to honor veterans and their service to our country. Throughout the year, each organization works independently to identify and address legislative and policy issues that affect the organizations’ members and the broader veterans’ community.
DAV (Disabled American Veterans)
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; linking veterans and their families to employment resources; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with more than one million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U. S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at www.dav.org.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), founded in 1946, is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury centers; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.
As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, PVA also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, PVA serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at www.pva.org.
Veterans of Foreign Wars of The United States (VFW)
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) is the nation’s largest and oldest major war veterans’ organization. Founded in 1899, the congressionally-chartered VFW is comprised entirely of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. With more than 1.6 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in 6,200 Posts worldwide, the nonprofit veterans’ service organization is proud to proclaim “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS” than the VFW, which is dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs. For more information or to join, visit our website at www.vfw.org.
Individually, each of the co-authoring organizations serves the veterans community in a distinct way. However, the three organizations work in partnership to present this annual budget request to Congress with policy recommendations regarding veterans’ benefits and health care, as well as funding forecasts for the Department of Veterans Affairs.Back to Top
- African American Post Traumatic Stress
- Air Force Association
- American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc.
- American Military Society
- American Psychological Association
- American Society of Nephrology
- American Veterans for Equal Rights
- Association of the United States Navy
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Fleet Reserve Association
- Jewish War Veterans of the USA
- Military Officers Association of America
- Military Order of the Purple Heart
- National Alliance for Eye & Vision Research
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
- National Disability Rights Network
- National Gulf War Research Center, Inc.
- Navy Seabee Veterans of America
- Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs
- Vietnam Veterans of America
Sections of this year’s The Independent Budget were written by:
- Heather Ansley, PVA
- Adrian Atizado, DAV
- Sarah Dean, PVA
- Peter Dickinson, DAV
- Fred Downs, PVA
- Carlos Fuentes, VFW
- Steven Henry, PVA
- Joy Ilem, DAV
- Kayda Keleher, VFW
- Mark Lichter, AIA, PVA
- Shane Liermann, DAV
- Shurhonda Love, DAV
- Amanda Milisits, PVA
- Patrick Murray, VFW
- Susan Prokop, PVA
- Jeremy Villanueva, DAV
- Melanie Brunson, Blinded Veterans Association
- René A. Campos, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
- Susan Edgerton, DAV Advisor
- Gary Ewart, American Thoracic Society
- Heather Kelly, PhD, American Psychological Association
- Grant Olan, American Society of Nephrology
- Matthew Shick, Association of American Medical Colleges
- Jennifer Zeitzer, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
- Lisa Bogle, DAV, for editorial assistance
- Liz Deakin, PVA, for editorial management
- Diane Dickens, PVA, for production assistance
- Michael Edson, VFW, for cover design
- Dana Kauffman, PVA, for editorial assistance
President Trump signed the VA MISSION Act (Public Law 115-182) on June 6, 2018, in a White House ceremony. One of the most comprehensive and consequential pieces of veterans’ legislation ever passed by Congress, this historic law contains a number of policy priorities that The Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs) had been advocating for years. Most notably, the VA MISSION Act reforms the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system and expands the VA’s Caregiver Support program. Though enactment of the VA MISSION Act was the culmination of more than four years of debate over the future of the VA health care system, it also marks the beginning of a far more complex and critical phase: implementation.
If VA and Congress implement this law fully, faithfully, and effectively, veterans’ health care will enter a new era marked by expanded, timely access to high quality care for all enrolled veterans. However, if implementation deviates from the clear and widespread consensus reached by all key stakeholders, the VA health care system could enter a period of decline with devastating consequences for veterans who rely on VA for their care, and perhaps even threaten the viability of the VA health care system itself. Given the stakes involved in getting this right, the IBVSOs have determined that for the 116th Congress the full and faithful implementation of the VA MISSION Act rises above every other policy priority for the next two years. As such, we have chosen to deviate from our longstanding practice of enumerating multiple critical issues for the year ahead, and instead we are designating a single Critical Issue for the 116th Congress: Fully and Faithfully Implementing the VA MISSION Act.
This does not mean that other longstanding policy priorities should not be concurrently pursued: VA and Congress can and must continue to address myriad challenges at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). VA must continue to fully and faithfully implement a number of new landmark laws approved by the 115th Congress, including the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (Public Law 115-55), The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (Public Law 115-247), commonly known as the “Forever GI Bill”, and the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (Public Law 115-41).Back to Top