The House Appropriations Committee agreed with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) $4.8 billion IT systems budget request for Fiscal Year 2022, but cut $26 million from the VA’s request for funding for its electronic health records (EHR) project.
The bill, passed on a vote of 33-24, recommends $4.8 billion in funding for IT systems, matching the FY2022 budget request from the Biden administration. However, that figure does represent a decrease of $69 million compared to FY2021 enacted funding levels.
Included in the approved IT funding level is $1.4 billion for staff salaries and associated costs, $3.3 billion for operations and maintenance, and $297 million for development. For the development portion, the bill specifies how the VA should allocate the funding: $69 million for health management platforms; $103 million for clinical applications; $8.6 million for health research and development; $87 million for benefits systems; $11 million for cybersecurity; and $8 million for information/infrastructure management.
Also included in the bill is significant funding for the VA’s ongoing EHR modernization efforts. The committee approved $2,637,000,000 in funding for the FY2022 budget, versus the $2,663,000,000 requested by VA. While approved funding marks a $26 million drop from the budget request, but a $10 million increase over FY2021 enacted funding levels.
Including in the total funding amount is $1.4 billion for the EHR contract, $276 million for program management, and $943 million for infrastructure support. Due to the uncertainty of the timing of financial obligations for the EHR project, the funding will be made available for three years.
While the VA saw a small decrease from its budget request for EHR modernization, it did receive more funding than requested in other areas. The Appropriations Committee did include an extra $100 million in funding for VA medical services. While this budget category covers a wide range of services, it does including funding for telehealth and connected services. The bill specifically says the funding will be used to support home telehealth, home telehealth prosthetics, and clinic-based telehealth.
The House committee also recommended $239 million in funding for the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Among other responsibilities, the OIG is tasked with “robust oversight” of the EHR modernization implementation.
“This bill demonstrates a strong commitment to our service members, their families, and our Veterans,” Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said in a statement when the bill cleared the committee.
“It addresses military infrastructure and readiness needs of current service members and provides the benefits and medical care that Veterans duly earned in their service to our Nation,” she said. “It’s a blueprint to make our VA and military stronger and more responsive to all those who proudly protect America, now and in the past.”
The House Appropriations Committee bill now moves to the full House floor for consideration.