Veterans Funding in the FY '08 Omnibus Spending Bill
December 20, 2007
The final omnibus funding bill includes FY 2008 funding for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (HR 2642/S 1645). It is important to note however, that this bill was separately negotiated with the Bush Administration separate from the other 11 domestic spending bills and was never subject to a veto threat. However, in order to stay under the overall limit on discretionary funding, Congress made most of the $3.7 billion increase for the VA ABOVE the Bush Administration’s FY 2008 request subject to the President designating these funds as emergency spending. If the President releases these funds, the overall budget for the VA would increase by $6.6 billion above FY 2007, to $43.1 billion. This increase in funding for veterans medical care will NOT be subject to an across-the-board reduction.
In addition, the final omnibus spending bill continues a directive to the VA requiring a minimum allocation of language for specialty mental health care. For FY 2008, this language directs the agency to ensure that "not less than $2.9 billion shall be expended for specialty mental health care and not less than $130 million shall be expended for the homeless grants and per diem program."
Finally, language accompanying the final omnibus bill directs the VA to report back to Congress on two specific issues:
A report on inpatient psychiatric bed capacity (with a report to Congress due by the end of February 2008), and
A report on options for improving community-based mental health services by utilizing the capacity of Community Mental Health Centers, mobile Vets Centers and peer support programs (with a report due to Congress in Early February 2008).