The House markup last Friday for governmental spending targeted all agencies for reductions from the 2011 budget. That is, except for the Defense’s budget. Overall, the VA budget cuts are projected to be around $500 million below the President’s 2012 funding requests. This is a far cry from the $6 billion in reductions initially sent up the flagpole by the House of Representatives over the past few months.
Two areas of focus relating to the cuts are the VA IT budget and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims budget. Unfortunately, both reductions seem to be targeted at areas within the agency that have the highest need for adequate funding.
Currently, the VA has been touting IT solutions as the silver bullet to resolve veterans’ claims backlogs, among other things. The markup cuts $136 million from the total IT budget of $3 billion. Chairman of the subcommittee responsible for the cuts, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, commented:
“While under better management, the development of the massive IT systems the VA needs remains problematic.”
The US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is also being hit with a cut to its budget proposal. This court is one of the sole sources of relief for veterans whose claims have been wrongly denied by the VA Board of Appeals. The requested budget for 2012 was $55 million. The subcommittee instead approved only $30 million at a time when claims are backlogged at a higher rate than in the past. The money was to be used for land acquisition and a new courthouse. Currently, this court resides within the Department of Veterans Affairs D.C. facility, a “living situation” which could be called a conflict of interest since the court’s sole mission is the regulate the VA when it makes bad decisions. After all, it can be mighty tough to police the actions of your landlord. Overall, could be seen as a lack of commitment to the purpose of the court overall, since the current administration has also left 3 of the 9 total judgeships vacant. With over 4000 appeals cases pending, it appears that both Democrats and Republicans have put disabled veterans benefits behind other priorities.
While not perfect, the cuts are at least much smaller than those considered earlier. With any luck, the VA will be able to persevere and provide the services they are required to provide without too great of a hindrance from this current “markup.”