VA Seeks Increased Funding in FY 2017 Budget Request
Published: February 17, 2016
The VA is seeking a 5% increase in their discretionary budget for FY 2017 according to the President’s Budget Request released on February 9th. The proposed VA discretionary budget totals $78.7B including $3.6B in medical care collections, showing a 4.9% increase over FY 2016 enacted levels and a 5.0% increase when medical care collections are not included ($75.2B).
VA’s high level priorities for the next fiscal year include strengthening veterans’ benefits programs, eliminating the claims backlog, increasing access to health care, increasing the availability of mental health services, simplifying the appeals process, enhancing cybersecurity, and modernizing information systems.
Most of the increase in VA’s discretionary budget is due to a rise in the medical services budget, specifically the Care in the Community initiative to facilitate and streamline the ability for veterans to receive medical care in the community where they reside. The budget request provides $7.2B in discretionary funding for veterans’ Care in the Community, which combined with resources from the 2014 Veterans Choice Act, will support over 15.6 million medical procedures for veterans by non-VA providers.
Investments for construction and grants suffered the most dramatic decrease at 45% over FY 2016 levels, -$831M. The budget decline for major construction makes up $789M of this decrease.
VA’s budget requests $4.4B for information technology initiatives, down $9M or .2% from FY 2016 enacted levels according to the Federal IT Spending Report for Budget Year FY 2017 on the ITDashboard. However, VA’s FY 2017 Budget Fast Facts sheet on their website states that the FY 2017 budget is $4.3B, up $145M over FY 2016.
The IT budget is comprised of 30 total investments where the top 10 represent 89% of the total IT budget at $3.9B. Development, Modernization and Enhancement (DME) accounts for $546M or 12.4% of the total IT budget, a 15% decrease from FY 2016 enacted levels.
Notable IT investments include enhancing information security and network resilience, development and implementation of the Improved Veterans Experience (IVE) initiative, and VistA Evolution and interoperability.
The IT budget requests a $128M increase in cybersecurity funding. Specifically, the investment line item entitled Corporate IT Support Enterprise Cyber Security and Privacy which funds VA security operations, compliance and oversight programs, and records management, and protects IT networks and data, shows a 52% increase with a funding request of $376M.
VA’s CIO, LaVerne Council, reorganized the agency’s security office as one of her first initiatives as CIO, including naming a new chief information security officer. The agency is routinely a target for hackers and fought off 76.5 million intrusion attempts and blocked more than 99 million suspicious emails in January 2016.
Federal contractors can look for continued procurement and contracting opportunities with VA in the areas of cybersecurity, veterans’ benefits management, appeals process improvements, VistA Evolution, website navigation and access, and EHR interoperability.