WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) welcomed the Senate Appropriations Committee's bipartisan, unanimous passage of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) bill. As a member and former Chair of this subcommittee, Senator Heinrich is pleased to announce that the FY24 bill includes substantial investments in nine New Mexico projects.
“These major investments in military construction will ensure that service members at installations in New Mexico and across the globe are equipped with the state-of-the-art technology, facilities, family housing, and resources needed to complete their missions,"said Heinrich. “This bipartisan bill will also enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the care and benefits that our military veterans deserve and have earned. I am proud that these investments in our military service members and veterans passed out of committee with strong bipartisan support. As we continue through the appropriations process, on the Senate floor and with our counterparts in the House of Representatives, we need to deliver on our responsibility to support those who have sacrificed to keep our nation safe.”
In total, the bill provides $154.3 billion in discretionary funding for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Activities, which is $184 million more than fiscal year 2023. Additionally, the bill includes $134.8 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an increase of $85 million over the FY23 enacted level. A full summary can be found here.
New Mexico Military Construction
The bill included investments in 9 New Mexico projects.
Senator Heinrich successfully included funding for the following projects:
Senators Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján also successfully included funding for the following projects:
Support for Veterans
Heinrich successfully advocated for major increases in funding to programs that support veterans in New Mexico and throughout the United States. He also successfully included key language to protect access to health care for veterans in New Mexico and nationally.
Access to Care for Rural and Tribal Veterans
The bill includes report language to prevent the VA from closing Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). This will ensure that veterans have access to care at VA facilities and effectively protect key facilities in rural and Tribal areas from being closed through the quadrennial market assessments process conducted by the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission.
$15 million for Transportation for Rural Veterans
The bill increases funding for the Highly Rural Transportation Grants (HRTG) program by $5 million. This program helps veterans in rural areas travel to VA or VA-authorized health care facilities. The increase in funding will directly benefit New Mexico veterans who utilize HRTGs in Colfax, Union, Mora, Harding, San Miguel, Quay, Guadalupe, Cibola, Socorro, Torrance, Lincoln, DeBaca, Catron, Sierra, and Hidalgo Counties through the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services.
$347.5 million for Rural Health
The bill increases funding for an existing home-based primary care program serving veterans located in rural and highly rural areas by increasing relevant research, innovation, and dissemination capabilities. Many veterans in New Mexico live in rural and tribal areas, and these veterans often must travel to major medical centers in urban areas for medical care, sometimes requiring multiple-day trips. Native American veterans often live in rural areas and are disproportionally affected by the distance they must travel for medical care. The bill delivers $10 million more than the FY 2023 enacted level and the President's budget request.
$3.1 billion for Homeless Assistance
The bill increases funding to expand Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, and the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program. This funding will build on the success of FY23 by providing an 8% increase of funding. These programs support communities across the nation providing critical services and housing for veterans and their families. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased substantially nationwide since 2009, a 50% reduction by some estimates. As of January 2020, New Mexico had an estimated 3,333 veterans experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total, 252 were Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness.
$164 million for Grants for Construction of State Extended Care Facilities
The bill includes a request for a review of the VA Secretary’s project prioritization process for state extended care facilities for veterans. The current prioritization criteria can have an adverse impact to veterans in rural states, as the definition for a state that has a great need for the beds is based on population, and in the current prioritization criteria is ranked above addressing detrimental facility conditions, other than catastrophic life-threatening conditions.
Suicide Prevention Coordinators
In 2018, the veteran suicide rate in New Mexico was significantly higher than the national veteran suicide rate and the general population suicide rate. The VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator utilizes real-time technologies to remain engaged in a veteran’s daily life and proactively support veterans to ensure they are well.
$938 million for VA Medical and Prosthetics Research
The bill delivers $938 million in funding for research on Prosthetics and Limb Loss. The VA’s Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service is the largest and most comprehensive provider of prosthetic devices and sensory aids in the world. This funding would continue to support the VA’s research to restore veterans’ highest possible level of functioning within their families, communities, and workplaces by providing the most up to date prosthetics.
$70 million for Neurology Centers of Excellence
Nine million veterans are enrolled in VA care around the nation, including many who suffer from neurologic diseases. Many of these veterans benefit from the unique care of neurology-related Centers of Excellence, which are fully integrated into a VA medical center to better coordinate multidisciplinary care. There are centers around the country that focus on Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Parkinson's, and Headache Disorders. The bill provides $70 million of funding to build on this work, provides clear funding for all the Centers, and aligns the Epilepsy and Headache centers.