Table of Contents: Acknowledgements and Introduction
For nearly 40 years, The Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs)—DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW)—have worked to develop and present concrete recommendations to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs remains fully funded and capable of carrying out its mission to serve veterans and their families, both now and in the future. Throughout the year, the IBVSOs work together to promote their shared recommendations, while each organization also 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 (Disabled American Veterans) empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: keeping our promises to America’s veterans. 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 DAV.org.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases. The organization ensures veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitors their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funds 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, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at 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 1.5 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in nearly 6,000 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 VFW.org.
Special Thanks to:
Noel Albizo, PVA, for design
Lisa Bogle, DAV, for editorial assistance
Jeannette King, DAV, for editorial assistance
Lynne Switzer, PVA, for editorial assistance
Oname Thompson, PVA, for editorial assistance
The Independent Budget (IB) provides an impartial estimate of the funding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will require to fully and timely deliver all authorized programs, services, and benefits to America’s veterans. The recommendations also include funding estimates for new and expanded programs, benefits, and services that the IB veterans service organizations (IBVSOs)—comprised of DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW)—believe are critical to the health and well-being of those who served, their families, and survivors.
After almost three years of the pandemic, it appears that COVID may be nearing its endemic stage, and one result could be greater predictability of VA’s funding needs. While COVID’s impact on acute and chronic health conditions must continue to be addressed, the IBVSOs anticipate less demand for new emergency funding, a change from VA’s volatile budgets over the past three years. However, there are still long-term health impacts and the threat of new and more potent COVID mutations that require continued VA investment in prevention, preparation, and mitigation strategies. VA must remain on the leading edge of medical research to benefit veterans and all Americans, not just from risks caused by COVID, but also to stay ahead of other potential health emergencies. As identified in the IBVSOs’ critical issues for the 118th Congress, VA health care staffing recruitment and retention must also remain a top priority.
Adding further uncertainty to estimating VA’s budgetary requirements is the continuing period of economic instability, particularly regarding growth, inflation, and unemployment. These economic factors could significantly affect the number of veterans who apply for and utilize VA benefits, health care, and other services. The IBVSOs identified the need to ensure successful military to civilian transition as a critical issue for the 118th Congress.
In 2022, Congress passed the historic Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) (Public Law 117-168), which expanded VA health care and benefits to potentially millions of veterans. The IBVSOs have identified PACT Act implementation as a critical issue for the 118th Congress. While it is too soon to assess how many veterans will apply under the PACT Act and what the resource requirements will be in the next few years, VA and Congress must monitor enrollment and application trends closely and make any necessary adjustments to funding before and during fiscal year (FY) 2024.
The breakdown of the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission last year does not end Congress’s responsibility to expand and sustain adequate VA health care infrastructure. While VA’s AIR recommendations contained outdated or inaccurate data in many locations, they did identify hundreds of medical facilities that need to be repaired, rehabilitated, expanded, and constructed to meet veterans’ needs. For the 118th Congress, the IBVSOs identified infrastructure as a critical issue important to ensuring VA remains the primary provider of care for veterans. Congress must now adequately fund infrastructure modernization efforts.
Once again, Congress and the Administration failed to enact VA’s annual appropriations on time, adding uncertainty and inefficiency to VA’s operations and budgeting. In addition, the new Toxic Exposure Fund, created by the PACT Act, will significantly impact VA’s budget and appropriations process. As identified in the IBVSOs’ critical issues for the 118th Congress, the aging veterans population also increases the need to improve access to VA-provided long-term services and supports. With so much uncertainty, the Administration and Congress must work together –with VSO stakeholders – to ensure those who served have timely access to the benefits and health care they earned.