WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta voted Friday to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to a total of $85.3 billion — the largest amount ever provided for the VA.
The total is $3.9 billion above current funding levels.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5895 by a bipartisan vote of 235-179. It funds Veterans Affairs, military construction initiatives, energy and water programs, and legislative branch operations.
”The funding we provided is critical not just to the safety and security of everyday Americans, but also to the health and well-being of our veterans,” Barletta, R-Hazleton, said in a press release. “While this bill is a step in the right direction, I will keep fighting to ensure Washington is working for those back home in Pennsylvania.”
H.R. 5895, the first appropriations package of fiscal year 2019, includes:
• $7.4 billion for homeless veterans services.
• $8.6 billion for mental health care services.
• $387 million for opioid abuse prevention.
• $270 million for rural veterans’ health initiatives.
The bill also provides funding for VA oversight offices to protect whistle blowers and increase accountability by investigating poorly performing managers and inferior patient care.
Barletta said the measure also allows for critical investment in our nation’s infrastructure by providing $7.28 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers. And energy programs are provided $13.2 billion in funding targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance our nation’s “all of the above” solution to energy independence.
Additionally, the bill continues a pay freeze for members of Congress that has been in place since Fiscal Year 2010 and provides $579 million for the Government Accountability Office, which provides critical oversight of how taxpayer dollars are spent on federal programs.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.