Appropriations Brief: Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Education
The House Appropriations Committee recently passed H.R. 4502, the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriation package for the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Labor (DOL), and Education (ED), with provisions across a range of top SVA priorities. For those interested in learning more, visit these links for bill summary, full text, committee reports VA, ED, and who voted for/against it.
We’ve noted the funding levels for relevant programs below, as well as any relevant committee report comments or recommendations for additional context.
As for next steps, the funding package passed the House of Representatives and is heading to the Senate who have scheduled markups for these bills this week. However, exact timing on passage is still up in the air as the Senate works through other legislative priorities, such as the infrastructure bill and budget reconciliation measure, ahead of the August recess.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA)
Top line funding for VA Readjustment Benefits. $14,946,618,000.
- This is an increase of $2,367,653,000 from last year.
- Almost 80 percent of the funds in this account go to support for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Additional notable provisions.
- $297,000,000 for information technology infrastructure development.
- This funding is for VA to continue building out the Digital GI Bill initiative, which is a complete modernization of their aging IT systems. With some of the systems over 50 years old, this process is long overdue (see our testimony for more information).
- In addition, this funding allows VA to seamlessly integrate new legislative requirements, such as the provisions in the recent Isakson-Roe bill (see our breakdown here for more information).
- $2,585,182,000 for telehealth care.
- Focus is on expanding telehealth care services, and specifically asks VA to report on ways to increase access to ATLAS program, including possible partner locations. The ATLAS program installs telehealth pods in communities for veterans to access telehealth services without needing their own technology to do so.
- $778,500,000 for gender-specific care for women.
- This is increase of $117,809,000 from last year.
- Includes additional $104,946,000 to expand programmatic support for women’s healthcare.
- Committee notes that women are now the fastest growing cohort within veteran community, and women using VHA services has increase 32 percent in the last six years.
- $661,879,000 for minority veteran health care.
- Committee notes that, according to VA, by 2040 more than one-third of veterans will be from a minority group.
- Reiterates previous calls on how VA can improve data collection practices to better capture racial/ethnic data in order to address healthcare disparities.
Department of Labor (DoL)
Top line funding for Veterans Employment and Training (VETS) program. $334,841,000.
- VETS is an agency within the Department of Labor focused on helping veterans, service members, and their families pursue meaningful careers.
- Funding is an increase of $18,490,000 from last year, and an increase of $10,000,000 from the President’s budget request.
- Funding for relevant programs within VETS.
- State administration grants. $180,000,000.
- This is money to help states run DOL VETS-associated programs that provide career and training-related services to veterans.
- Transition Assistance Program. $31,379,000.
- This is the same as FY21 enacted and FY22 budget request.
- Federal Administration. $52,538,000.
- This includes $300,000 to continue the Disabled Veterans Program (DVP), which works to aid in the hiring of disabled veterans.
- Veterans Employment and Training Institute. $3,414,000.
- This is the National Veterans’ Training Institute, a program that provides training for state workforce agencies and other staff that provide veterans’ benefits.
- Homeless Veterans Reintegration program. $67,500,000.
- This is an increase of $10,000,000 over FY21 enacted level.
- This is the only federal program that focuses exclusively on competitive employment for homeless veterans, and their goal is to connect these veterans with meaningful employment opportunities and help develop services that will address the underlying problems facing homeless veterans.
Additional notable provisions.
- $20,000,000 is set aside for the clean energy training program, which provides training grants for programs focused on renewable and sustainable energy, for separating service members, veterans, and spouses.
- $748,862,000 for Employment Service funding.
- Employment Service provides job opening referrals, career counseling, and job searches, including for veterans and people with disabilities.
- This is an increase of $78,810,000 from FY21, and $50,000,000 more than FY22 Budget Request.
Department of Education (ED)
Top line funding for higher education, generally. $3,430,757,000.
- This is an increase of $889,096,000 from last year and an increase of $121,955,000 from President’s budget request.
- Student financial assistance. $27,187,352,000.
- This is an increase of $2,642,000,000 from last year, and a decrease of $358,000,000 from the President’s budget request.
- This account funds Pell grants, Federal Work-Study, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), which are grants up to $4,000 for undergraduate students, prioritizing those that are Pell grant eligible.
Additional notable provisions.
- $1,434,000,000 for Federal Work-Study.
- This is an increase of $244,000,000 from last year and President’s budget request.
- $24,725,352,000 for Pell grants.
- This is an increase of $2,250,000,000 from last year and $750,000,000 less than President’s budget request.
- Recommends $6,895 as maximum award, an increase of $400.
- $1,297,761,000 for TRIO programs.
- TRIO programs are outreach and student service programs aimed at serving low-income students, first generation students, and students with disabilities.
- This is an increase of $200,761,000 from last year.
- $95,000,000 for Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program.
- CCAMPIS helps low-income student parents access campus childcare services.
- This is an increase of $40,000,000 from last year.
- $15,000,000 for the Centers of Excellence for Student Veteran Success program.
- These Centers are designed to be central hubs on campuses for student veterans that provide several support services, including academic assistance, networking opportunities, peer mentorship, counseling, and more.
- This is an increase of $127,015,000 over last year, and $92,015,000 over President’s Budget.
- Requires ED briefing to HAC/SAC on how to it plans to continue this program.
- $8,000,000 for basic needs competitive grants to at least eight schools to support programs that address the basic needs of students and report on best practices.
- Basic needs include housing, food, transportation, and access to physical and mental health services.
- $12,000,000 to continue the Open Textbook Pilot and fund a new grant competition this coming year.
- This program is an ongoing project to develop and expand the use of open textbooks in courses, especially those with high enrollments, in order to save students as much money on textbook costs as possible.
Department of Agriculture
Top line number for rural development broadband programs. $883,377,000.
- This is an increase of $255,377,000 from last year.
- Most of the funding here is for the broadband ReConnect Loan and Grant program, which provides money to pay for the costs associated with bringing broadband service to rural areas.
Additional notable provisions.
- $5,000,000 for a pilot program for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to provide grants to nonprofit organizations for programs and services to establish and enhance farming and ranching opportunities for veterans.
- $60,000,000 for grants for distance learning and telemedicine services in rural areas.
- $11,869,000 for broadband telecommunication loans and grants, and
- $60,000,000 for grants to be made to provide telemedicine, distance learning services to rural areas.
- $786,604,792 for broadband loan and grant pilot program.
Miscellaneous unfunded/no line-item funding provisions across all Departments.
These are provisions encourage the agencies to do certain things without specific funding or mandates requiring them to act.
- Transition coordination. VA, DOL, DOD should coordinate efforts and resources to better prepare transitioning service members for civilian life, particularly through improved job-placement services and information on available resources following transition.
- Veteran Awareness of Student Loan Forgiveness. Stresses that VA should coordinate with ED, DOD to make sure veterans are aware of all available options they may have for student loan forgiveness or repayment programs.
- GI Bill Comparison Tool. Reiterates the importance of providing prospective student veterans adequate information to make informed decisions before choosing a school to attend.
- GI Benefits During COVID-19. Encourages VA to explore ways to support hybrid and flexible learning modalities for student veterans, even after the COVID protections expire on December 21, 2021.
- Technology for Student Veterans. Urges VA to explore ways to ensure student veterans have all the required technology and connectivity they need to be successful in school.
- Student Veterans and Access to Child Care. Requires VA to report no later than 120 days after this bill is enacted on student veterans who lack access to reliable and affordable childcare services. The report must also identify barriers to student veterans, whether lack of childcare has impacted successful completion of education or training, and include various forms of childcare, such as family, friends, and childcare centers.
- Student Housing Assistance. Requires VA submit a report on Monthly Housing Allowance calculations to ensure they are appropriate for all student veterans.
- Transition Assistance Grant Program. Encourages VA to quickly spin up the required transition assistance grant program from the Isakson-Roe Benefits legislation passed earlier in 2021.
- Mandates VA provide Congress with quarterly reports on performance and data for each VBA regional office including, at least, disability claims backlog, VBA general operating expenses, pending appeals at VBA and BVA.
- 85/15 rule. Committee report highlights historical abuses of proprietary schools towards veterans and affirms need for 85/15 reversion.
- DoL Veterans’ pilot program. Committee report specifically encourages VA to pilot an accelerated veteran transition program in regions surrounding military installations, inclusive of exiting soldiers and retired veterans.
- Report also highlights the need for this pilot to direct veterans to high-demand fields because available veteran resources do not fully pay for school, transitional training benefits, or target regional career/trade demands, nor do they prioritize job-placement.
- GAO study on Unemployment Insurance (UI) compensation. Directs GAO to study deficiencies in the administration of UI compensation, including need for technological improvements at the state level.
- VA ATLAS program implementation. Committee encourages expanding the ATLAS program.
- Telehealth technology and capabilities. Committee commends VA for significant improvements in telehealth technology access and services and encourages further growth to better service rural and disadvantaged veterans.