Veterans Affairs sees budget boost for 2012

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers working to rein in government spending still found enough leftover cash to give veterans a Christmas bonus during their latest round of budget negotiations.

As part of the massive federal budget bill agreement Congress passed last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs will see a 3.6 percent boost in its discretionary funding for fiscal 2012. The $58.5 billion plan is about $300 million less than what the White House requested, but the increase is still more than many agencies received.

Nearly $3 billion of that money is earmarked for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The department estimates that they’ll supply some assistance to more than 530,000 of those vets in the coming year, more than double the number they reached in 2008. The money includes research and treatment programs for mental health issues, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another $4.9 billion will be set aside for programs to help homeless veterans, an increase of nearly $600 million from fiscal 2011. Funding for long-term care programs is also up about $600 million, to $6.9 billion, and will support for institutional and home-based care programs.

Nearly $600 million is dedicated to medical and prosthetic research, a slight increase from fiscal 2011 levels. And $200 million more was set aside for implementation of the of the new caregivers benefits program, which provides training and stipends for family of injured veterans.

The budget plan also includes $63.8 billion in mandatory funding for veterans programs and $52.5 billion in advance appropriations for VA in fiscal 2013, to ensure that medical operations remain funded in case of future budget fights.

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