On Feb. 9, the Obama administration released its 2017 budget proposal, reported The New York Times. The spending blueprint calls for an additional $75.1 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The total proposed budget for the VA amounts to $178.7 billion, a 5 percent increase over the department's budget for the 2016 fiscal year.
Congress must still approve the plan. According to Stars and Stripes, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs was scheduled to hold its fist hearing on the proposal Feb. 10.
The budget plan includes frameworks for improving the VA's much-maligned internal processes. Approximately $46.2 million is earmarked for an initiative to modernize the benefit claims process. The administration plans to hire an additional 242 full-time VA employees and purchase new technology to streamline the system.
"Unfortunately, under current law today, the VA appeals framework is not serving the needs of our veterans," the administration said in a news release. "The current process – which has built up over the past 80 years – is complex, ineffective and opaque."
The proposal sets aside $7.2 billion for outside health programs and $1.6 billion for programs for homeless veterans. In 2009 former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki made a pledge to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. Though the department failed to achieve this goal, it has made strides in combating the problem. With federal aid, cities like Phoenix have successfully housed all of their formerly homeless veterans, reported The New York Times. And, under the Obama administration, homelessness among veterans has fallen by 32 percent, reported PolitiFact. The budget also calls for $65 million to fund over 1,000 VA medical facilities across the country. These sites serve an estimated 9 million veterans.