Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2020 MilCon-VA funding bill has been signed into law. This legislation includes provisions she championed to improve rural veterans’ access to health care, support veteran caregivers, and decrease veteran homelessness.
“This legislation makes significant investments in the health care veterans have earned through their service to our country,” said Senator Collins. “Through my senior position on the MilCon-VA Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked hard to ensure that the men and women who have already sacrificed so much for our country have access to quality health care and housing. This legislation will also make important resources readily available for more military caregivers.”
The bill includes a number of priorities Senator Collins advocated for:
· Rural Health Care: The bill includes $300 million, an increase of $30 million above last year’s funding level, for VA rural health care. In addition to this funding, the Appropriations Committee’s report on the legislation includes a provision Senator Collins authored to sustain continuity of care for rural veterans through provider agreements, based on the highly successful ARCH program, to ensure veterans in rural areas maintain convenient access to health services close to their homes.
· Caregivers: The bill includes $710 million, an increase of $204 million above last year’s funding level, for the VA Caregiver Program. This funding will support the expansion of the program to veterans of all generations. This expansion was authorized in legislation championed by Senator Collins last year.
· Mental Health: The bill includes $9.4 billion, an increase of $446 million above last year’s funding level, for mental health services. This includes $222 million for suicide prevention outreach.
· Homelessness Prevention: The bill includes $1.85 billion, $50 million above last year’s funding level, to assist homeless veterans. This includes $380 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, $408 million for HUD-VASH program case management, and $250 million for the grant and per diem program. Earlier this year, Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation Senator Collins co-authored that provides $40 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers to reduce veterans’ homelessness. Since the program was first established in 2008, Maine has received 238 vouchers to support homeless veterans. Senator Collins’ efforts have contributed to homelessness among veterans declining by 49 percent since 2008.
· VA MISSION Act: The bill includes $8.9 billion for FY 2020 and $11.3 billion FOR FY 2021 to implement the VA MISSION Act, legislation to create a new Veteran Community Care Program to streamline the delivery of health care and help veterans access care closer to home. The bill also expands eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program through a provision championed by Senators Collins and Patty Murray (D-WA).
· Emergency Ambulance Reimbursement: The Appropriations Committee’s report on this legislation includes provisions authored by Senator Collins to help prevent unwarranted financial burdens on veterans due to lengthy claims and payment delays for emergency ambulance transportation.