Rep. Martha Roby: Veterans healthcare a priority in recently approved House committee bill
A bill funding veterans affairs and military construction projects passed the House Appropriations Committee today, setting up a full vote on the measure which includes a variety of healthcare and infrastructure initiatives.
The bill increases funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion but is within the recently passed budget caps. Overall, the bill includes $71.5 billion for fiscal 2015, about $1.8 billion below this year's level. Military construction projects take high biggest hit, funded at $6.6 billion or about $3.3 billion less than last year.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, who serves on the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, said she is pleased the bill prioritizes care for veterans.
"It is our collective duty as a nation to look out for the wellbeing of our veterans, and I am pleased to see funding for veterans care prioritized in this appropriations bill," Roby said.
Among the items included in the bill is a measure Roby proposed that would require the VA to document the performance and costs related to Patient-Centered Community Care programs. Initiated in 2013, the VA's PCCC programs allow veterans to access special health care services not offered by their local VA centers.
Under PCCC, VA medical centers can contract with local, non-VA health care providers for special services such as mental health care, physical therapy and some emergency and newborn care for veteran mothers.
Roby said the PCCC programs have proven to be successful.
"It just makes sense to connect veteran-patients with local health care providers when there are gaps in services offered by the VA. We have heard good reports of PCCC's benefits, and full documentation will help us make the case for allowing more veterans to take advantage of this innovative program," she said.
The bill's language also calls for the Department of Defense to prioritize construction projects for its air traffic control towers that have structural, mechanical or electrical deficiencies. Roby said she's urging the Pentagon to prioritize these projects, including the aging air traffic control tower at Maxwell Air Force Base.
"I've personally climbed up the tower at Maxwell, and can attest to how badly it needs replacing," Roby said. "Budgets are certainly tight and changes might not be possible overnight, but it is our responsibility to highlight these needs in the appropriations process."
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