Strengthening the Economy for Servicemembers, Veterans, and Military Families
The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget demonstrates that we can make critical investments to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and grow the economy while continuing to cut the deficit in a balanced way.
The President believes we must invest in the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising and thriving middle class. He is focused on addressing three fundamental questions: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do the jobs of the 21st Century? How do we make sure hard work leads to a decent living? The Budget presents the President’s plan to address each of these questions.
To make America once again a magnet for jobs, the Budget invests in high-tech manufacturing and innovation, clean energy, and infrastructure, while cutting red tape to help businesses grow. To give workers the skills they need to compete in the global economy, it invests in education from pre-school to job training. To ensure hard work is rewarded, it raises the minimum wage to $9 an hour so a hard day’s work pays more.
The Budget does all of these things as part of a comprehensive plan that reduces the deficit and puts the Nation on a sound fiscal course. Every new initiative in the plan is fully paid for, so they do not add a single dime to the deficit. The Budget also incorporates the President’s compromise offer to House Speaker Boehner to achieve another $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction in a balanced way. When combined with the deficit reduction already achieved, this will allow us to exceed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, while growing the economy and strengthening the middle class. By including this compromise proposal in the Budget, the President is demonstrating his willingness to make tough choices and his seriousness about finding common ground to further reduce the deficit.
* * *
To honor their service and strengthen the economy for America’s servicemembers, veterans, and military families, the 2014 Budget will:
Support Servicemembers and Their Families. The Administration places a strong focus on military family programs, sustaining funding at $8.5 billion to ensure consistent and effective services across military installations. The Department of Defense (DOD) provides a broad spectrum of programs and services for servicemembers and military families including: mental health and counseling services; deployment assistance; child care and youth programs; morale, welfare, and recreation programs; commissaries; DOD-run schools for military dependents; military spouse employment programs; and many other services. DOD is working to improve its support to the All-Volunteer Force by identifying and discontinuing redundant or less effective military family programs, while increasing support for programs that are proven to serve military families well.
In addition to supporting military families, the Budget provides a 1.0 percent increase to basic pay, a 4.2 percent increase in the Basic Allowance for Housing, and a 3.4 percent increase in Basic Allowance for Subsistence for calendar year 2014. This compensation level recognizes the sacrifices made by the men and women in our Armed Forces.
Promote Health of Servicemembers and Their Families. To provide quality health care for the Nation’s 9.6 million eligible military beneficiaries, the Budget provides $49.4 billion for the DOD Unified Medical Budget that supports the DOD Military Health System. The Budget sustains strong programs that support wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their families, and which help servicemembers transition into civilian life and the workforce. In particular, DOD is improving its support for servicemember mental and emotional health by increasing collaboration among suicide prevention programs, working to eliminate the stigma associated with accessing mental health services, and improving the effectiveness of DOD programs. To this end, DOD has started assessing the effectiveness of over 160 DOD psychological health programs and will realign resources by the end of 2014 to support the most effective programs and replace those that are less effective. DOD will sustain funding to improve electronic health record access.
DOD continues to seek efficiencies and cost savings within the Military Health System. The Budget supports adjusted TRICARE cost sharing requirements to address health care cost increases and make the health benefit more sustainable. Survivors of members who died while on active duty and disability retirees and their family members will be exempt from the fee and copay adjustments. DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs will work on a study jointly to identify best practices and efficiencies within their healthcare systems.
Help Servicemembers Transition to Civilian Life and Jobs. Over the past 18 months, the Administration has worked to make the transition from military to civilian life easier, with a particular focus on combating high levels of veterans’ unemployment. The Budget provides more than $300 million to DOD, VA, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, and other Federal agencies to support the first major redesign of the interagency Transition Assistance Program in over 20 years, which will provide more information and better resources to servicemembers as they begin to navigate civilian life. A new program, entitled Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success), will help servicemembers prepare for civilian life by providing pre-separation assessment and individual counseling, a five-day core curriculum, an additional curriculum tailored to the servicemembers’ individual career goals, and a capstone event to verify that transitioning servicemembers have met certain standards that show they are ready for their civilian careers. DOD is also working to streamline civilian credentialing for servicemembers and veterans, so that they can better communicate to civilian employers the valuable skills they learned in service to the Nation. For example, the first action of the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, working with manufacturing credentialing agencies, has enabled up to 126,000 servicemembers to gain industry-recognized, nationally-portable certifications for high-demand manufacturing jobs.
Increase Funding for VA to Meet Increasing Needs. The Budget provides $63.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a 4.0 percent increase over the 2013 enacted amount, in order to meet the increased needs of the Nation’s veterans. This funding level maintains the Administration's commitment to veterans, providing the resources to help transform the Department and better serve veterans and their families.
Protect Critical Funding for VA Medical Care. The Budget provides $54.6 billion for VA medical care, a 3.7 percent increase above the 2013 enacted level, to provide high-quality and timely health care services to veterans and other eligible beneficiaries. These services include innovative programs to educate and support veterans’ caregivers, enhance veterans’ access to care via telehealth technologies, and support the provision of equitable, high-quality care for women veterans in a sensitive and safe environment. In addition, the Budget proposes $55.6 billion in advance appropriations for the VA medical care program in 2015, which will provide timely and predictable funding for VA’s medical care to prevent our veterans from being adversely affected by appropriations delays.
Strengthen Mental Health Care Services. The Budget provides nearly $7 billion, a 7.2 percent increase above the 2013 enacted level, to continue VA’s focus on expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans to ensure accessible and patient-centered care, including treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. This funding will allow VA to continue its collaborative efforts with the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Health and Human Services, as directed in the President’s executive order on mental health for veterans, servicemembers, and military families, to help veterans receive timely access to mental health services, including through enhanced partnerships with community providers.
Combat Veteran Homelessness. For homeless and at-risk veterans, the Budget invests $1.4 billion to provide VA services through the Veterans Health Administration’s specialized homeless programs. These funds will combat veteran homelessness through collaborative partnerships with local governments, non-profit organizations, and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Justice, and Labor. The Budget includes $2.4 billion for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, which will maintain existing units and expand prevention, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing, and $75 million in HUD funds for new housing vouchers for homeless veterans who receive health care and other services through VA. Together, this funding supports the Administration’s goal to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015 and the Administration’s Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, which was released in 2010.
Improve Health Care Services for Women Veterans. To ensure that the women who served our country receive the care they need throughout their lives, the Budget includes a $422 million investment, a 14 percent increase from the 2013 enacted amount, for gender-specific health care within VA for eligible women veterans to address their health care needs. In total, the Budget includes nearly $4.9 billion to provide VA medical care services to eligible women veterans.
Activate New and Improved Health Care Facilities. The Budget includes $799 million to help VA provide the best possible specialized care for veterans in new or renovated facilities. These funds will support the staff and equipment at VA facilities across the country, including improved polytrauma and spinal cord injury units.
Put Veterans to Work Preserving and Restoring America’s Land and Resources. The Budget includes $1 billion to develop a Veterans Job Corps conservation program that will put up to 20,000 veterans back to work over the next five years protecting and rebuilding America. Funding will enable veterans to leverage skills developed in the military in jobs on the country's public lands and in its communities, ranging from conservation and infrastructure projects to law enforcement and first responder jobs, such as park rangers, police officers, and firefighters.
Support Veterans Employment Tax Credits. The Administration continues its support of tax credits that will help employ veterans. The Budget proposes to permanently extend the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides up to $5,600 to employers to hire unemployed veterans, and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit, which provides up to $9,600 to hire long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities.
Make Disability Benefits Processing Paperless to Improve Service to Veterans. The President's Budget provides $155 million for the implementation of a new paperless claims processing system. These funds will allow VA to move away from its reliance on paper records, thereby improving the speed and efficiency of claims processing while simultaneously enhancing the security of veterans' personal information. The Budget also includes $136 million for a Veterans Claims Intake Program that will allow VA to directly receive and convert paper evidence, such as medical records, into a digital format for increased efficiency in claims processing.