Washington, D.C.— Congressman Tom Rice (SC-07) today joined his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in passing H.R. 2029, FY2016 Military Construction & Veterans Affairs Appropriations. 

Given the problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this legislation increases oversight measures and provides the agency with the funding needed to modernize VA health care facilities, reduce the disability claims backlog, fulfill veteran education benefits, improve employment training, and provide for homeless veterans.   

“Our veterans courageously served our country and in return were promised quality care,” said Rice.  “For too long, the government has not made good on this promise.  This bill boosts funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by $3.6 billion dollars, a  5.6 percent increase over last year’s level.  But, we are not handing over a blank check to the VA.  This increase comes with many, many strings attached to ensure this money goes directly to improve veterans’ care and reduce the claims backlog.”

“Furthermore, this bill prohibits funding for the transfer or relocation of the terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay and increases funding for Arlington Cemetery to ensure that our servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price for freedom are properly, and honorably, laid to rest,” concluded Rice.

The Department of Veterans Affairs serves approximately 48.3 million people or 15 percent of the total estimated resident population of the U.S. and Puerto Rico: 22 million veterans and 26.3 million family members of living veterans or survivors of deceased veterans. The VA employs 342,000 people, making it one of the largest Federal agencies in terms of employment.*

*See Committee on Appropriations press release: “Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Legislation,” April 14, 2015.