According to a recent American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 19 million Veterans live in the United States. For Veterans, some of the most significant problems are health-related. In addition to health issues, some returning service members have other challenges — such as economic or social challenges — readjusting to civilian life. The new Veterans Affairs budget plan focuses on addressing Veterans issues by supplementing many programs for service members and their families.
Recently, House lawmakers approved a new Veterans Affairs budget for next year. The significant funding increase includes $270 billion, supporting critical programs and improving outreach to more Veterans. In years past, Congress and the White House have routinely failed to pass a budget by that deadline, creating spending complications for federal agencies.
In fiscal 2001, the VA budget totaled about $45 billion. By fiscal 2011, it was about $125 billion, almost triple that total. Ten years later, in 2021, the department’s budget was nearly double that again, at $245 billion. The 2022 VA budget plan would be the largest in department history and mark another substantial increase in funding for Veterans Affairs.
Over the past several months, members of Congress debated the VA budget priorities and made their adjustments before settling on a compromise plan for the fiscal 2022 plan.
Mental health care is at the forefront of the 2022 VA budget plan. The budget calls for a $10.7 billion increase — a 13.5 % increase from last year — to mental health care spending for Veterans. Another new recruiting program urging military medical personnel leaving active duty to join VA health care teams has planned funding of $1 million in the new VA budget plan. The VA budget plan also includes about $3.3 billion more in medical spending on top of the $94 billion in advance appropriations already approved for fiscal 2022.
Under the new plan, Veterans Affairs would nearly double spending on Veterans suicide prevention programs, more than $540 million in the next fiscal year. A notable program that helps Veterans experiencing homelessness would see a sizable boost — up 4.4% from 2021 — aligning with the administration’s goal to achieve a systematic end to homelessness for American Veterans. Another increase includes gender-specific care and program support, over $700 million — a 12% boost from years prior.
A program launched in 2019, VET TEC, stands for Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses. This five-year pilot program will pay for veterans to get training in technology jobs. This year alone, the program has proven to be very popular, with close to 14,000 applications and 3,000 enrollees. Under the new VA budget plan, $45 million has been authorized to back this program next year.
The overall spending package for 2022 also includes $10.9 billion in military construction spending plans, with a significant boost in funding —$213 million – for planning and designing future child development centers for Veterans and their families.
While the VA website has many good resources for helpful information, it can be difficult to know which benefits are available for each case. For example, pension benefits can fall into three categories - basic pension, homebound pension, and aid and attendance pension. Each category has certain eligibility requirements. Also, the applicant might be the Veteran or a family member of the Veteran.
To make matters more complicated, a couple of years ago, the VA instituted new rules regarding eligibility for some benefits. Among the new rules were those that instituted a lookback period and an asset limit for certain benefits. However, certain legal strategies can be used to best protect an applicant's savings while getting benefits and care needed. It might be advantageous to contact a Veterans benefits attorney to get through the application process.
When Veterans are applying for VA benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is beneficial to have all of the essential documents and forms ready because they will most certainly be needed.
Relatives of Veterans who wish to apply for benefits should have any relevant marriage certificates, birth certificates, and the Veteran’s birth and death certificates if necessary. Appropriate Veteran discharge papers will also be required for VA benefits applications.
There are numerous ways to apply for VA benefits depending on the type of benefit a Veteran or their family members seek. The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages Veterans to work with an accredited Veterans benefits attorney who can assist them with the claims process.
Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney