House Appropriations Issues Report on Military Construction, VA & Related Agencies – Title II – National Cemetery Administration (Part 7 of 9)

House Appropriations Issues Report on Military Construction, VA & Related Agencies – Title II – National Cemetery Administration (Part 7 of 9)


WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — The House Appropriations Committee issued a report (H.Rpt. 117-81) in explanation of the accompanying bill (H.R. 4355) making appropriations for military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies for the fiscal year ending Sep. 30, 2022. The report was advanced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, on July 2, 2021.

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(Continued from Part 6 of 9)

National Cemetery Administration

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $352,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 394,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 392,000,000

Change from enacted level … +40,000,000

Change from budget request … -2,000,000

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) was established in accordance with the National Cemeteries Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-43). It has a fourfold mission: to provide for the interment of, in any national cemetery with available grave space, the remains of eligible deceased servicemembers and discharged Veterans, together with their spouses and certain dependents, and to permanently maintain their graves; to provide headstones for, and to mark graves of eligible persons in National, State and Tribal, and private cemeteries; to administer the grant program for aid to States and tribal governments in establishing, expanding, or improving State and tribal government Veterans’ cemeteries; and to administer the Presidential Memorial Certificate Program. This appropriation will provide for the operation and maintenance of 158 national cemeteries and 34 other cemeterial installations.

The Committee provides these funds to meet increasing workload and burial expansions. NCA should prioritize maintaining the current level of services at existing cemeteries and activating new cemeteries to increase burial access.

The bill includes language making ten percent of the total available until September 30, 2023.

Prisoners of War Headstones.–The Committee appreciates the Department’s actions to replace headstones of prisoners of war that feature swastikas and inscriptions glorifying the Nazi regime. The Committee understands that this replacement work has been partially completed, and strongly urges the Department to expeditiously complete the project. The Committee continues to direct VA to provide monthly reports on the status of this process to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress. Furthermore, the Committee continues to direct VA to include in these monthly reports details on its proposal to provide interpretive signs and historical context at cemeteries with headstones of prisoners of war, and reminds the Department to carefully craft the design and wording of planned interpretive signage to provide the appropriate historical context but be sensitive to those most affected by it.

Rural Cemetery Access.–The Committee remains concerned that NCA is not adequately serving the Nation’s Veterans in rural areas and that there are geographic pockets in the country which continue to go unserved. The Committee therefore directs VA to continue to pursue efforts to ensure that a burial option, including those utilizing public-private partnerships, within 75 miles of all Veteran homes is available and accessible. The Committee directs the Department to report to the Committees on progress made in this regard, and on strategies to address the remaining need in the future, within 60 days of enactment of this Act.

Departmental Administration

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS)

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $365,911,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 401,200,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 396,911,000

Change from enacted level … +31,000,000

Change from budget request … -4,289,000

The General Administration account provides funds for the Office of the Secretary, the General Counsel, six Assistant Secretaries, and two Department-level staff offices. The Committee has included bill language to make available through September 30, 2023, up to ten percent of these funds and to permit the transfer of funds in this account to the General Operating Expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration account.

VA Five Year Development Plan (VFYDP).–The Committee is very pleased that the Department has provided a VFYDP in its fiscal year 2022 budget and looks forward to reviewing the VFYDP in future VA budget submissions.

Quarterly Financial Information Reports.–The bill includes an administrative provision that extends the requirement for submission of the quarterly financial information required in the fiscal year 2017 bill and conference report.

Additional Budgetary Information.–The Committee continues its request that items described in previous House reports continue to be included in the budget justifications submitted each year. Further, the Committee directs VA to include in its budget justification materials a table for each account that shows a five-year funding history for requested and enacted levels.

Staff Relocations Within VA.–The bill continues the administrative provision requiring written notification 15 days prior to organizational changes that result in the transfer of 25 or more full-time equivalent staff from one organizational unit of the Department to another.

Performance Bonuses.–The Committee believes it is important to know how VA is allocating its resources with regard to performance bonuses. Therefore, the Committee directs VA to submit a report, no later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, which provides the aggregate total of VA performance bonuses covering the five most recent fiscal years for which the data is available. The data should be divided between bonuses for Senior Executive Service (SES) staff and non-SES staff. The report should also include the percentage of SES and non-SES employees who received a bonus and the average dollar amount of the bonuses by grade covering the same time period. The report, however, should not include any personally identifiable information.

Financial Management Business Transformation (FMBT).–The Committee provides $19,590,000 for FMBT. The current legacy financial management system is over 30 years old, and its imminent failure presents significant risks to VA. In the fiscal year 2018 conference report, VA was directed to provide the Committee, on a quarterly basis, a report that compares actual progress on the financial management system to the performance benchmarks and timeline provided in the first report. The Committee continues to expect the Department to continue this quarterly report throughout fiscal year 2022.

Supporting Minority and Disadvantaged Contractors.–The Committee recognizes the need to continue to meet its goals for contracting with minority, disadvantaged, and women-owned businesses. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department to prioritize awarding contracts to contractors that consistently execute approved small business subcontracting plans. The Committee further urges the Department to prioritize minority- owned and disadvantaged contractors and subcontractors. The Committee requests a report, within 180 days of enactment of this Act and annually thereafter, detailing the number of contractors that submitted a small business subcontracting plan during the fiscal year, disaggregated by race and ethnicity. This report should include an analysis detailing which contractors successfully implemented subcontracting plans and recommendations on how the Department could better achieve its prime and subcontracting goals for small businesses.

Data on Women and Minority Veterans.–The Committee recognizes the lack of data specific to women and minority Veterans made available to Congress by the Department. The Committee recommends, when applicable, the Secretary display information in the annual report(s) submitted to Congress separately for women Veterans and minority Veterans.

Veterans First Contracting Program.–The Committee recognizes the tremendous value of the Veterans First Contracting Program in assisting in the expansion and growth of service-disabled Veteran and Veteran-owned small businesses. Therefore, the Committee encourages VA to continue to expand and make mandatory the training of contracting officers in the requirements of the Veterans First Contracting Program, with particular attention being paid to conducting the market research necessary to ensure that service-disabled Veteran and Veteran-owned small businesses are awarded VA contracts when appropriate.

21st Century IDEA Act Compliance for the Center for Women Veterans.–The Committee supports the mission of VA’sCenter for Women Veterans to monitor and coordinate VA’s administration of health care and benefits services, and programs for women Veterans. The Committee also supports the full implementation of the 21st Century IDEA (Public Law 115- 336) and the need for a customized, self-service website that serves as a centralized source for the provision to women veterans of information about the benefits and services available to them under laws administered by the Secretary. Therefore, the bill includes $1 million for the Center for Women Veterans to stand up a user-friendly, mobile responsive website that fully implements the requirements of PL 115-336. The Committee believes this improved digital service delivery for women veterans will increase participation in VA benefits and services and reduce service costs. The Committee directs the Secretary of the VA to brief the appropriate committees of Congress not later than 180 days following enactment of this Act on plans to modernize its Center for Women Veterans Health website and digital service delivery programs.

Center for Women Veterans.–The Committee recognizes that the Center for Women Veterans (CWV) serves to monitor and coordinate the Department of Veterans Affairs administration of health care and benefits services, and programs for women veterans and to serve as an advocate for cultural transformation, both within VA and in the general public, in recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military. The CWV is tasked with 12 specific functions under title 38 of U.S. Code. The Committee directs VA to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress within 120 days of enactment of this act detailing: (1) how the work of the Center fulfills these 12 Congressionally-mandated functions, including data on the Center’s previous success and outcomes on delivering these functions; (2) how the Center is coordinating with other VA entities to meet those functions; (3) any challenges in fulfilling those statutorily mandated functions, including any specific budgetary constraints; and (4) a strategic plan for meeting these functions in the next two years.

Grant and Federal Assistance Oversight.–The Committee is aware that the VA lacks a departmental office to support and oversee its growing number of grants and federal assistance programs, which could impact program implementation and public reporting of data, such as through USAspending reports. The Committee encourages the VA to ensure grant programs are stood up effectively and in a timely manner, and that improvements are made to internal systems responsible for informational updates to grant assistance listings, CFDA numbers, and USAspending reports.

Federated Learning.–The Office of Enterprise Integration’s Innovation Center is encouraged to utilize commercially available federated learning solutions to expand diagnostic and medical care services that can be provided at rural VA clinics with limited or no broadband capabilities.

ASSET AND INFRASTRUCTURE REVIEW

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … – – –

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … $5,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 5,000,000

Change from enacted level … +5,000,000

Change from budget request … – – –

This appropriation funds the work of the “Asset and infrastructure Review Commission” (the Commission), an independent commission established in the VA MISSION Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-182), Title II, section 202. The Commission will review VA’s recommendations to modernize or realign VHA facilities, including leased facilities. The Commission will conduct public hearings and provide a report to the President on the VA’s plan along with any additional recommendations from the Commission. Support staff will conduct in-depth field hearings to receive input from Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations, local VA providers, and local government. The staff of the Commission are anticipated to begin preparatory work in the first months of FY 2022.

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BOARD OF VETERANS APPEALS

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $196,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 228,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 228,000,000

Change from enacted level … +32,000,000 Change from budget level … – – –

The bill makes ten percent of this funding available through September 30, 2023.

The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) is the component of VA responsible for making final decisions on behalf of the Secretary for the thousands of claims for Veterans’ benefits that are presented to BVA for appellate review. The majority of BVA’s workload derives from the benefit claims initiated at VBA regional offices. The appellate process has multiple steps, most of which occur at the local regional office level. If a Veteran is not satisfied with a regional office determination, he or she may appeal to BVA for a final agency decision. BVA adjudicates appeals covering all areas of Veterans’ benefits, but most of the workload concerns appeals for Veterans’ disability compensation or pension benefits. On February 19, 2019, VA implemented the new legislative framework that modernized the claims and appeals process and provided greater choice to Veterans by providing them three options for claims and appeals: (1) a supplemental claim; (2) a higher-level review; or (3) a direct appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Prior to COVID-19, the Board was on target to reach its goal of conducting a record 24,300 hearings in 2020 and the number of pending hearing requests was 77,621. Due to the effects of the pandemic, the Board completed 15,669 hearings in 2020, resulting in 86,849 pending hearing requests.

In March 2020, BVA fully implemented a virtual tele-hearing solution, allowing Veterans to participate in hearings before the Board via voice and video transmission over the Internet using non-VA cell phones and laptops. This technology, designed to increase hearing show rates, also provides greater access and flexibility, especially for rural Veterans and representatives. Approximately 97% of hearings are now virtual.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS (INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS)

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $4,912,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 4,842,800,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 4,842,800,000

Change from enacted level … -69,200,000

Change from budget request … – – –

The Information Technology (IT) Systems account supports IT services such as systems development and performance, operations and maintenance, information protection, and customer support. The program permits the effective and efficient delivery of Veterans’ healthcare services and benefits programs.

Within the account total, the Committee allocates $1,414,215,000 for pay and associated costs, $3,131,585,000 for operations and maintenance, and $297,000,000 for development. The bill makes available three percent of pay and associated costs and five percent of operations and maintenance funds until September 30, 2023. All development funds are available until September 30, 2023.

The Committee encourages VA to allocate sufficient resources for IT improvements that support research and research facilities.

The Committee continues bill language permitting the transfer of funding among the three subaccounts upon approval of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

The bill also continues language allowing for the reprogramming of funds among development projects upon approval by the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

The chart below reflects the Committee’s allocation for development projects. This chart will serve as the Department’s approved list of development projects, and all requested changes are subject to the reprogramming guidelines as outlined in the accompanying Act.

View table at https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/117th-congress/house-report/81/1?s=3&r=30

The Committee expects the Office of Information and Technology to continue to provide an IT expenditure report to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress on a monthly basis. This report should include a comparison to the project costs included in the development funding chart above and provide an explanation for any differences in excess of $3,000,000.

Cybersecurity Strategy.–The Committee is pleased that the Department is updating its cybersecurity strategy and plans to publish it by the end of 2021 and encourages it to remain vigilant against current and future cybersecurity challenges.

Technology Investments.–As the Department of Veterans Affairs rolls out its enterprise applications and moves toward more agile development, the Committee encourages the Department to review and consider the Department of Defense’s success implementing the Software Factory concept of operations.

21st Century IDEA VA Forms Modernization.–The Committee supports the Department’s efforts to modernize its internal and external digital services, consistent with the requirements of the 21st Century IDEA (Public Law No. 115-336). The Committee believes that the 21st Century IDEA will enable the VA’sOffice of Information Technology and Veterans Customer Experience to improve digital service delivery for both Veterans and internal workflows.

Encrypted Communications for Telehealth.–In coordination with the Veterans Health Administration and Office of Electronic Health Records Modernization, the Office of Information Technology is directed to utilize the best technologies, such as end-to-end encrypted communications with zero-trust architecture, that can reliably serve Veterans and healthcare providers.

Veterans Affairs Sexual Harassment Tracking.–The Committee directs the Department to develop a centralized data supporting system cataloguing sexual harassment and assault complaint data pursuant to Section 5303 of the Deborah Sampson Act.

Digital Protection Pilot Program.–The Committee continues to believe that it is our country’s duty to protect our Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Congressionally Charted VSOs from both foreign and domestic threats across the digital landscape attempting to steal money, pilfer personal information or peddle foreign influence via social media or other online campaigns. In Fiscal Year 2021, the Committee provided $5,000,000 million for a “Digital Protection Pilot Program” within the Office of Information Technology Systems at VA to use commercially available, proven, automated technology to continuously detect, disrupt and disable these threats. The Committee directs the Department to provide a report on the status of implementation of the “Digital Protection Pilot Program” within 90 days of the enactment of this Act.

VETERANS ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD (EHR)

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $2,627,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 2,663,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 2,637,000,000

Change from enacted level … +10,000,000

Change from budget request … -26,000,000

The Veterans Electronic Health Record is a unified account designed to manage the effort to develop an interoperable electronic health record system that will access seamlessly the records of Veterans in the VA system and those of the Department of Defense and of community providers. The VA system is the same as the one chosen by DOD and is planned to be rolled out with the same timeline and geographic areas as DOD in order to realize cost efficiency savings.

The bill provides an increase of $10,000,000 above the fiscal year 2021 level to support VA’s on-going efforts to deploy the new electronic health record system. Within the total funding, the bill includes $1,416,498,000 for the electronic health record contract, $276,705,000 for program management, and $943,797,000 for infrastructure support. Funding is made available for three years due to the uncertainty of the timing of obligations for this substantial effort.

This account is intended to be the single source of funding within VA for the electronic health record effort. No authority is provided for funds from other VA accounts to be transferred into this account nor for funds from this account to be transferred out to other accounts. Consistent with the effort to centralize financial management of the development of the electronic health record, the Committee continues to direct the Department to manage this effort at the headquarters level in the Office of the Deputy Secretary.

The bill continues language requiring the Secretary to submit a quarterly report to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress detailing obligations, expenditures, and deployment strategy by facility. VA is directed to continue quarterly briefings on performance milestones, costs, and changes to implementation and management plans, and to provide an accurate up-to-date deployment schedule each quarterly briefing. Additionally, the Committee directs the Department to provide updates on plans and efforts to integrate community care providers into the new EHR system. Such updates should be submitted concurrently with the quarterly reports.

In addition, bill language is included requiring notice to and approval from the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress on any changes to the deployment schedule. Should there be any deviation from the deployment schedule, the Committee directs the Department to formally submit in writing a proposed updated deployment schedule within 7 days of notification to the Committees of any potential Change, and prior to implementation of the updated deployment schedule. The Committee repeats the fiscal year 2020 directive for GAO to perform quarterly performance reviews of the VA electronic health record deployment. It is expected that this quarterly reporting will provide the Committees and VA with timely information to properly oversee this effort and address important issues.

Cybersecurity for Electronic Health Records and Blockchain Technology.–Recognizing the ongoing challenges of sharing data between MHS GENESIS and the Department’s EHRM initiative, the Committee encourages the Department to continue prioritizing efforts to protect Veterans’ sensitive information when implementing EHRM, and recommends the Department consider emerging technologies, such as blockchain technology, if future requirements drive a need to modify VA’s security architecture and technical solutions. The Committee understands that the Department is undertaking a pilot to study the use of blockchain technology to share data and looks forward to the results of the pilot being shared with the Committee.

Transparency on EHRM Third-Party Application Review.–The Committee continues to encourage VA to ensure that the new EHRM initiative provides an open architecture that allows a governance and oversight process for administering access and support to deploy third-party applications, components, and application programming interfaces. The Committee encourages the Department and the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Program Office to ensure the standards and evaluation criteria for commercially available software, tools and products that advance interoperability and seamless care are readily available for review, such as on the EHRM webpage.

Informatics.–Based on the lessons learned at the Mann- Grandstaff VA Medical Center, the Committee notes the need for integrating informatics infrastructure and capabilities as the Department transitions additional facilities to a new electronic health record. Workflow process modelling, healthcare standards implementation, and terminology standardization are critical to multiple areas of veteran care, including staff productivity and community care. The Committee requests a report within 120 days of enactment of this Act on what the Department is doing to integrate informatics infrastructure and capabilities as the Department transitions from VistA to the new electronic health record system, including detailing the minimum informatics requirements that all facilities must meet as part of this transition.

Electronic Health Record Infrastructure.–The Committee appreciates the Department’s March 2, 2021, response to its request for a report on the total cost of the installations of all remaining information technology and related infrastructure required to complete the deployment of the electronic health record. However, in light of the Office of Inspector General’sReport #20-03178-116, Deficiencies in Reporting Reliable Physical Infrastructure Cost Estimates for the Electronic Health Record Modernization Program, the Committee is concerned with the accuracy and reliability of the data provided. As such, the Committee directs the Department to swiftly implement the recommended actions and to provide a new estimate that includes the information requested in Division J of the FY21 the conference agreement (P.L. 116-260).

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $228,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 239,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 239,000,000

Change from enacted level … +11,000,000

Change from budget request … – – –

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established by the Inspector General Act of 1978 and is responsible for the audit, investigation, and inspection of all VA programs and operations. The overall operational objective is to focus available resources on areas that would help improve services to Veterans and their beneficiaries, assist managers of Department programs to operate economically in accomplishing program goals, and to prevent and deter recurring and potential fraud, waste, and inefficiencies.

The bill makes up to ten percent of this funding available until September 30, 2023.

The Committee continues to request robust oversight of MISSION Act and EHRM implementation.

Federal Electronic Health Record Management Program Office (FEHRM).–The Committee looks forward to receiving the VA Office of Inspector General audit report regarding the governance policies and practices of the FEHRM.

VA Backlog.–The OIG is encouraged to review the causes of VA’s current claims backlog and provide all appropriate feedback on the work VA is doing to address backlog issues. The OIG shall report to the Committee on the status of the backlog, how VA is addressing the backlog, and any changes in the amount of time veterans are waiting to hear back on their claims.

CONSTRUCTION, MAJOR PROJECTS

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $1,316,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 1,611,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 1,611,000,000

Change from enacted level … +295,000,000

Change from budget request … – – –

The Construction, Major Projects appropriation provides for constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of the facilities under the jurisdiction or for the use of VA, including planning, architectural and engineering services, assessments, and site acquisition where the estimated cost of a project is more than $20,000,000. The

Committee recommendation makes $657,326,000 of these funds available for a five-year period.

As required by language that is in permanent law, all major construction projects costing more than $100,000,000 must be managed by a non-VA government entity such as the Army Corps of Engineers. While the Committee no longer duplicates this language, the Committee intends to continue its oversight of the quality of the outside entity management and will continue to receive quarterly briefings on each of the large construction projects.

The chart below reflects the Committee’s recommendation for Major Construction projects.

CONSTRUCTION, MAJOR PROJECTS [In thousands of dollars]

View table at https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/117th-congress/house-report/81/1?s=3&r=30

To enhance the Committee’s capacity to conduct oversight on VA’s facility construction efforts, several administrative provisions are continued in the bill: (1) No funding amount greater than $7,000,000 may be reprogrammed between construction projects unless approved by the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress; (2) any change to the scope of a construction project is not permitted without the approval of the Committees; and (3) VA must report any bid savings of $5,000,000 or more on projects as soon as they are identified.

CONSTRUCTION, MINOR PROJECTS

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $390,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 553,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 553,000,000

Change from enacted level … +163,000,000

Change from budget request … – – –

The Construction, Minor Projects appropriation provides for constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of the facilities under the jurisdiction of, or for the use of, the Department, including planning, assessment of needs, architectural and engineering services, and site acquisition, where the estimated cost of a project is equal to or less than $20,000,000.

The

Committee recommendation makes $55,300,000 of the funds provided available until expended.

The Committee encourages the Department to prioritize construction for expanding gender-specific care for women and mental health programs, in particular mental health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program facilities and new inpatient Substance Use Disorder treatment facilities within the VA system. The Committee also notes that inpatient Substance Use Disorder facilities are of particular importance for Veterans in rural communities. The Committee also encourages VA to allocate sufficient resources for improvements to research facilities, particularly to address any priority deficiencies.

Construction of Housing for Rural Homeless Veterans.–The Department has made great efforts to find suitable housing for homeless Veterans and their families. The Committee encourages more non-traditional efforts to eliminate Veteran homelessness. For example, some cities and towns have started pilot programs using “Micro” or “Tiny Homes“, or renovated shipping containers, to help deal with homelessness. The Committee encourages VA to continue its efforts to house homeless Veterans and their families and explore the feasibility of providing “Tiny Homes” or renovated shipping containers as housing.

National VA History Center.–The Committee supports the Department’s decision to establish the VA History Office and the National VA History Center (NVAHC) to collect and preserve the department’s history. Because the VA was one of the few cabinet-level agencies without an official history office, this fills a long-standing need to develop an overarching program to collect, preserve and provide access to VA’s relevant historical records and artifacts to tell a comprehensive story of VA and its predecessor organizations. The Committee encourages VA to continue restoration necessary to develop the NVAHC to serve as the principal VA-wide location for centralized VA historical collections.

GRANTS FOR CONSTRUCTION OF STATE EXTENDED CARE FACILITIES

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $90,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … – – –

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 90,000,000

Change from enacted level … – – –

Change from budget request … +90,000,000

This appropriation provides grants to assist States in constructing State home facilities, for furnishing domiciliary or nursing home care to Veterans, and to expand, remodel, or alter existing buildings for furnishing domiciliary, nursing home, or hospital care to Veterans in State homes. A grant may not exceed 65 percent of the total cost of the project. The bill makes this funding available until expended.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2) included $500 million that allowed VA to fund all projects on the priority list, thereby eliminating the backlog of priority projects in fiscal year 2021.

Supporting grants for construction of state extended care facilities has been and will continue to be a priority of the Committee. As such, in order to ensure that VA has the resources required to address priority project applications submitted in April 2021, the bill maintains level funding of $90 million for fiscal year 2022.

GRANTS FOR CONSTRUCTION OF VETERANS CEMETERIES

Appropriation, fiscal year 2021 … $45,000,000

Budget request, fiscal year 2022 … 45,000,000

Committee recommendation, fiscal year 2022 … 47,097,000

Change from enacted level … +2,097,000

Change from budget request … +2,097,000

This program provides grants to assist States and tribal governments with the establishment, expansion, and improvement of Veterans’ cemeteries that are operated and permanently maintained by the States and tribal governments. Grants under this program fund up to 100 percent of construction costs and the initial equipment expenses when the cemetery is established. State and tribal governments remain responsible for providing the land and for paying all costs related to the operation and maintenance of the State cemeteries, including the costs for subsequent equipment purchases. The bill makes this funding available until expended.

Administrative Provisions The bill includes 49 administrative provisions, of which 48 were in effect in fiscal year 2021 in some form and one is a new provision. The administrative provisions included in the bill are as follows: (INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 201 allowing for the transfer of funds among three mandatory appropriations. The Administration proposal to modify this provision is not adopted.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 202 allowing the Department to transfer funding among the four medical appropriations accounts in fiscal year 2022. The Administration proposal to modify this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 203 allowing for salaries and expenses funds to be used for hire of passenger vehicles, lease of facilities or land, and purchase of uniforms.

The bill includes section 204 providing that only funding in “Construction, Major Projects” and “Construction, Minor Projects” can be used for the purchase of any site for any new hospital or home or to construct any new hospital or home.

The bill includes section 205 requiring the Department to be reimbursed for medical services it provides to any person not defined as a beneficiary to ensure the Department is receiving payment for all medical services provided.

The bill includes section 206 allowing for the use of funds appropriated in fiscal year 2022 for “Compensation and Pensions”, “Readjustment Benefits”, and “Veterans Insurance and Indemnities” for payment of accrued obligations recorded in the last quarter of fiscal year 2021.

The bill includes section 207 allowing for the use of fiscal year 2022 funds to pay prior year obligations resulting from implementation of sections 3328(a), 3334, and 3712(a) of title 31, United States Code.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 208 allowing the Department to use surplus earnings from the national service life insurance, U.S. Government life insurance, and Veterans’ special life insurance program to administer these programs.

The bill includes section 209 allowing enhanced-use lease proceeds deducted for administrative expenses that were incurred in a prior fiscal year to be available until expended.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 210 limiting the amount of reimbursement the Office of Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Employment Discrimination Complaint Adjudication, and the Alternative Dispute Resolution function within the Office of Human Resources and Administration can charge other offices and accounts of the Department for services provided.

The bill includes section 211 requiring the Department to collect current and accurate third-party reimbursement information for the purposes of third-party insurance collections. If persons receiving care or medical services do not disclose this information, the Department is allowed to bill them reasonable charges for services provided.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 212 allowing the Department to use enhanced-use lease funds for construction and alteration of medical facilities.

The bill includes section 213 allowing the Department to use the Medical Services appropriation for expenses related to the broader mission of medical care to Veterans.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 214 allowing the Department to transfer Medical Care Collections to the “Medical Services” and “Medical Community Care” accounts to be used for Veterans medical care and makes those funds available until expended.

The bill includes section 215 allowing Veterans who reside in Alaska to obtain medical services from medical facilities supported by the Indian Health Service or tribal organizations, and provides for reimbursement for those services from VA.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 216 allowing the Department to transfer the proceeds received from the transfer of real property deposited into the VA Capital Asset Fund to the Major and Minor Construction appropriations accounts and makes those funds available until expended.

The bill includes section 217 requiring the Secretary to submit quarterly reports to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress on the financial status of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 218 prohibiting the Department from increasing total resources of the Information Technology appropriation by more than ten percent by transferring funding from the other VA accounts and requires the Department to receive approval from the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress before such transfer. The Administration proposal to modify this provision is not adopted.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 219 providing up to $379,009,000 of fiscal year 2022 funds for transfer to the Joint DOD-VA Medical Facility Demonstration Fund. Additional funding may be transferred from these accounts upon written notification to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 220 permitting the transfer of $323,242,000 of fiscal year 2023 funding appropriated for medical accounts to the Joint DOD-VA Medical Facility Demonstration Fund for the operation of facilities designated as combined Federal medical facilities.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 221 permitting the transfer of funds deposited in the Medical Care Collections Fund to the Joint DOD-VA Medical Facility Demonstration Fund for facilities designated as combined Federal medical facilities.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 222 directing that a minimum of $15,000,000 shall be transferred from the four medical care appropriations to the Department of Defense/Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund, to be available until expended.

The bill includes section 223 requiring the Secretary to notify the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress of all bid savings when identified in Major Construction projects that total at least $5,000,000 or five percent of the programmed amount of the project. The Administration proposal to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 224 prohibiting the original scope of work for a Major Construction project from being increased above the scope specified for that project in the original justification data provided to Congress unless approved by the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress. The Administration proposal to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 225 requiring a quarterly report from each VBA regional office on pending disability claims, both initial and supplemental; error rates; the number of claims processing personnel; corrective actions taken; training programs; and review team audit results. In addition, the bill requires quarterly reporting on pending appeals at VBA, as well as BVA. The Administration proposal to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 226 requiring advance written notification to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress 15 days prior to organizational changes which result in the transfer of 25 or more full-time equivalent staff from one organizational unit to another. The Administration proposal to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 227 requiring the Secretary to provide, on a quarterly basis to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, notification of any single national outreach and awareness marketing campaign in which obligations exceed $1,000,000. The Administration proposal to delete this provision is not adopted.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 228 permitting the transfer to “Medical Services” from any discretionary program except “General Operating Expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration” upon approval of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress. This provision is intended to give VA flexibility as it administers the changes to its traditional healthcare program and the MISSION Act. The Administration proposal to modify this provision is not adopted.

(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS) The bill includes section 229 permitting the transfer of funds between the “Board of Veterans Appeals” and “General Operating Expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration” upon approval of the Appropriations Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress. The Administration proposal to modify this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 230 prohibiting the reprogramming of funds exceeding $7,000,000 among the Major Construction projects unless the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress approve the request. The Administration proposal to modify this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 231 requiring the Secretary to ensure that the toll-free suicide hotline provides immediate assistance from a trained professional and adheres to all requirements of the American Association of Suicidology. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 232 requiring VA to use the mammography screening guidelines announced by the Secretary on May 10, 2017 through January 1, 2024. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 233 permanently allowing the use of Medical Services funding for assisted reproductive technology treatment and adoption reimbursement for Veterans and their spouses if the Veteran has a service-connected disability that results in being unable to procreate without such fertility treatment.

The bill includes section 234 prohibiting any funds from being used in a manner that is inconsistent with statutory limitations on outsourcing.

The bill includes section 235 pertaining to exceptions for Indian- or Native Hawaiian-owned businesses contracting with VA.

The bill includes section 236 directing the elimination over a series of years of the use of Social Security numbers in VA programs.

The bill includes section 237 referencing the provision in the Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act (P.L. 114-223) pertaining to certification of marriage and family therapists. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 238 which prohibits funds from being used to transfer funding from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund to any other VA account. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 239 permitting funding to be used in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to carry out and expand the child care pilot program authorized by section 205 of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (P.L. 111- 163).

The bill includes section 240 prohibiting VA from using funds to enter into an agreement to resolve a dispute or claim with an individual that would restrict the individual from speaking to Members of Congress or their staff on any topic, except those required to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 241 referencing language in the Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act (P.L. 114-223) requiring certain data to be included in budget justifications for major construction projects. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 242 prohibiting the use of funds to deny the Inspector General timely access to information, unless a provision of law expressly refers to the Inspector General and expressly limits such access. The Administration request to modify this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 243 prohibiting funding from being used in a manner that would increase wait times for Veterans at medical facilities. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 244 prohibiting the use of funds in fiscal year 2022 to convert any program that received specific purpose funds in fiscal year 2021 to a general purpose-funded program without the approval of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress at least 30 days prior to any such action. The Administration request to delete this provision is not adopted.

The bill includes section 245 eliminating category D or E pain testing on dogs or cats.

The bill includes section 246 to allow fiscal year 2022 and 2023 “Medical Community Care” funds to be used to cover obligations that would have otherwise been paid by the Veterans Choice Fund.

The bill includes section 247 allowing obligations and expenditures applicable to the “Medical Services” account in fiscal years 2017 through 2019 for aid to state homes to remain in the “Medical Community Care” account for such fiscal years.

This bill includes section 248 specifying an amount from the four medical care accounts for gender-specific care for women.

The bill includes section 249 establishing a timeline for site preparation in accordance with a lease.

Continues with Part 8 of 9

TARGETED NEWS SERVICE (founded 2004) features non-partisan ‘edited journalism’ news briefs and information for news organizations, public policy groups and individuals; as well as ‘gathered’ public policy information, including news releases, reports, speeches. For more information contact MYRON STRUCK, editor, [email protected], Springfield, Virginia; 703/304-1897; https://targetednews.com





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