The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced its request for a $243.3 billion budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The new figure signifies a 10.2% increase from the VA's FY 2020 budget.

This is the current administration's fourth consecutive VA budget increase proposal, which is consistent with the pattern of gradual increases over the past two decades. Military Times has reported that the proposed $243.3 billion budget for FY 2021 marks a 440% increase from the $45 billion VA budget just 20 years ago.

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.""The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."

Priorities reflected in the new VA budget

Increasing veterans' access to traditional and mental health care services is a significant focus of the new budget. The budget proposes $313 million to fund suicide prevention programs and $626 million for expanded women's health care services. It also provides support for a modern medical care scheduling system designed to improve veterans' experiences and provide greater access to critical health care resources.

According to the VA budget documents, this proposal "supports key Administration priorities such as veteran suicide prevention and opioid abuse prevention programs, and continues to integrate the changes enshrined in the VA MISSION Act of 2018, providing veterans greater choice in and access to the medical care they deserve."

Streamlining and modernizing the VA's IT systems is another major priority reflected in the FY 2021 budget. A proposed $2.6 billion is earmarked for replacing outdated infrastructure through the ongoing electronic health record (EHR) modernization plan. This will ensure a seamless transfer of health data between the Department of Defense and the VA to ease the transition from active duty service to civilian life.

The budget documents explain that the proposal supports "critical priorities, such as electronic health record modernization and information technology (IT) enhancements, to strengthen efficiency, transparency and accountability within the Department."

Key VA budget changes

Notable VA budget increases in the FY 2021 plan include:

  • An 82% increase in the funds available for EHR modernization.
  • A 32% rise in the budget for suicide prevention programs, as part of a 7.2% increase in the budget for mental health services.
  • A 14.1% increase in the resources allocated to health care, benefits, national cemeteries and discretionary funding.
  • A 12.4% boost in the funding for IT infrastructure modernization.
  • A 9% boost in the budget for women's health care services.
  • A 7.2% increase in funding for benefit programs including veterans' housing, insurance, compensation, pensions and readjustment benefits.

"The budget request will ensure Veterans and their families experience health improvements and technological modernization advancements," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement. "That's evidenced by the increase in budget funds we're receiving — that not only increase health care services and benefits to Veterans — but allow VA to lead the way in forward-thinking innovation."

Additional budget highlights

Under the current administration's proposal, titled "A Budget for America's Future," the VA is the only agency to see such a substantial budget increase.

If the $4.8 trillion funding plan is adopted by Congress, The Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon would experience modest budget increases of 3.4% and 0.5%, respectively. The Commerce Department, the Department of Interior, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor would see double-digit budget reductions.

Despite the cuts, the budget documents assert that one of the top DOL budget priorities will be to "[support] the transition of the Nation's veterans, servicemembers and their spouses from active duty to civilian life."