Senate Appropriations subcommittee approves $20M more for VA IT

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Veterans Affairs Department information technology spending would receive $3.7 billion in the coming fiscal year under a spending bill marked up June 18 by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs.

That amount is about $20 million more than the $3.683 billion request in the White House proposal; the additional money would go toward upgrading computer hardware at regional offices as they transition to the Veterans Benefits Management System, the VA's paperless claim management system, the subcommittee says.

In a statement, committee chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said the subcommittee markup also provides an additional $10 million to pay for overtime and training of claims processors. As of June 10, there were 816,839 unprocessed claims, the statement says, citing VA data; of those 66 percent have been pending for more than 125 days.

The $3.7 billion topline for the VA Office of Information Technology would also include $251.9 million for the integrated electronic health record and $119.4 million overall for VBMS.

That proposed amount is also more than the amount the House approved in its May 21 vote of 421-4 on its version of the fiscal 2014 veterans and military construction spending bill; that chamber voted for the amount in the White House proposal.

Whether the appropriations bills now making their way through committees and onto congressional chamber floors will get past Congress and onto the president's desk – the subject of chronic uncertainty since the 2010 midterm election – is again unknown. The White House has issued multiple veto threats against House-approved spending bills, citing the lack of an agreed-on budget that both chambers have approved.

That lack of agreement means the two chambers are proceeding with different spending targets – the House having approved March 21 outlays of $3.489 trillion (including mandatory, benefits spending) for fiscal 2014 (H.Con.Res.25) and the Senate having approved March 23 total outlays of $3.715 trillion (S.Con.Res.8).

For more:
- go to Senate Appropriations subcommittee statement on the fiscal 2014 MilConVA markup

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