WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday proposed a $269.9 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2022, an increase of 10% from 2021.

The proposed increase for the VA is part of a jump in nondefense spending that Biden will attempt to push through Congress before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. His overall budget proposal, the details of which were released Friday, totals $6 trillion.

VA Secretary Denise McDonough said Biden’s budget shows the high priority that he places on the VA.

“I think the president has put together a budget where he’s given us support that underscores to me the high priority that he and the vice president place in the veterans of this country,” McDonough told reporters Thursday.

McDonough will be tasked with defending the budget proposal on Capitol Hill. He’s already faced questions from Republican lawmakers about why the VA needs another increase after receiving $17 billion from the American Rescue Plan earlier this year.

Biden’s budget for the VA is made up of mandatory and discretionary spending. Mandatory spending, which includes entitlement programs, does not go through the congressional appropriations process. Mandatory spending totals $152.7 billion for 2022, an increase of $14.9 billion — or 10.8% — over 2021. McDonough told lawmakers in April that the increase in mandatory spending was largely due to a jump in veterans using private-sector doctors through the VA’s new community care program.

The discretionary budget proposal, which must be considered by Congress, includes $117.2 billion – a 9% increase from 2021. The request includes $18 billion to improve the infrastructure of VA hospitals and clinics, as well as $260 million to help provide child care resources to veterans who are parents.

The plan also calls for a significant increase to the VA’s suicide prevention efforts. The budget for these efforts would total $598 million, about $285 million more than in 2021.

The VA would receive a boost in funding to reduce veteran homelessness. The additional money would fund expanded case-management services to help more veterans gain permanent housing.

It also includes $12.9 million for a new office within the VA: the Office of Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion. The office will ensure “VA welcomes all our veterans, to include women, those of color and whom are LGBTQ+,” the agency said in a release Friday.

There’s also a hefty increase for the VA’s caregiver support program. The program would receive $1.4 billion total, an increase of $350 million.

Biden’s proposal for the VA continues a pattern of increases for the department that lasted throughout the administrations of former President Barack Obama and former President Donald Trump. The agency’s budget has increased consistently since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the early 2000s.

In 2009, the VA operated on a total budget of $90 billion. Under Trump, the agency’s yearly budget surpassed $240 billion, including mandatory and discretionary spending.

Twitter: @nikkiwentling

The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. is shown in this undated file photo.

The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. is shown in this undated file photo. (Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes)

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Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.

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