RELEASE: NUNNELEE SUPPORTS MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, VETERANS AFFAIRS AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS BILLS

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, as well as the FY 2015 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. The funding level provided by these bills abides by the $1.014 trillion spending limit passed by Congress in December 2013.

The FY 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies bill provides $71.5 billion in discretionary funding for military infrastructure and construction, as well as veterans’ benefits and programs. “Men and women of the armed services made a commitment to their country. Their country made a commitment to them, and it is up to us to honor that commitment,” Nunnelee said.

The modernization of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic health record system continues to be a priority of the Committee; the bill contains $344 million for this purpose. The bill also includes language that restricts funding until progress is made on timely and accurate exchanges of medical data between the VA, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the private sector. “It is outrageous that these agencies continue to struggle with completing these modernization efforts. Proper and timely medical data sharing is vital for proper veteran care,” Nunnelee said.

The bill also includes $173 million for paperless claims processing and $20 million more than was requested by the VA for continued progress on the disability claims processing backlog. The bill requires continued tracking and reporting to Congress on the claims processing performance of each regional office. Nunnelee reiterated the importance of eliminating the backlog, “the disability claims backlog is unacceptable and our veterans deserve better.”

The FY 2015 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill provides $3.3 billion for Congressional offices, supporting Congressional agencies (including security), visitor services, and Capitol operations and maintenance. This funding level is the same as FY 2015 and it is $122.5 million below the president’s request. “Our Nation’s Capitol is known worldwide as being a symbol for democracy and freedom. It is important that we maintain the necessary government operations that support this important symbol,” Nunnelee said.

Since Republicans gained control of the House in January 2011, funding for the House of Representatives has been reduced by 14%. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill also maintains the pay freeze for Members of Congress which was first enacted in 2010.

Beginning with the subcommittee markup of the two bills last week, this marks the earliest start to the appropriations process since 1974. “Passing appropriations bills is the best, most likely way to get conservative reforms into law. Even with the president’s budget arriving to us a month late, the Committee remains committed to sending all 12 appropriations bills to the House floor,” Nunnelee said. The two bills passed today now await House floor action.

4/9/14