Capito Kicks Off Senate Appropriations Season
West Virginia priorities included in two appropriations bills passed by the committee today
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, today participated in the first full Senate Appropriations Committee markup of 2016. Two bills were considered and passed during today’s markup, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MILCON-VA) Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017.
“The bills we passed today contain several specific priorities that benefit West Virginia, including an agritherapy pilot program to help veterans with PTSD start farms, continued support for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Opioid Safety Initiative, funding to assist with broadband deployment, and funds for fossil energy research and development like the work at the National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown,” said Senator Capito.
“I am very pleased that the appropriations process has begun earlier than usual. We reached a milestone last year by passing every appropriations bill out of committee for the first time since 2009. I am hopeful that we can continue this progress this year, and go even further by having an open and cooperative process on the Senate floor that leads to passage of all the bills,” Senator Capito added.
West Virginia priorities included in the MILCON-VA Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017:
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is funded at a record level, with an emphasis on improving backlog processing, access to care and medical services.
- At Senator Capito’s request, the bill includes language calling for the VA to do an agritherapy pilot program, which would assist veterans with starting farms as a form of therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- An increase in funding for medical and prosthetic research within the VA’s Veterans Health Administration.
- Continued funding and support for the VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative to improve pain care for veterans who have a higher risk of opioid-related overdose. The bill also encourages the VA to continually expand and improve treatment services, and better monitor and identify at-risk patients. Language from Senator Capito’s Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act is included in the bill to address the opioid crisis.
- Fully funds the VA’s Office of Rural Health, which is an all-encompassing effort, from health care to homelessness, for veterans who live in rural areas like West Virginia.
- Directs the VA to carry out a survey of VA and private medical providers to assess the VA Choice Program and better understand the program’s obstacles.
West Virginia priorities included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017:
- The bill increases funding from last year: $355 million above the Fiscal Year 2016 level and $261 million above the president’s budget request.
- Funds the Army Corps of Engineers at $6 billion, restoring an over $1.3 billion cut proposed by the president. This funding includes continued construction funds for the Bluestone Dam in Hinton, which Senator Capito visited earlier this month.
- Includes $632 million for fossil energy research and development. The work being done at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown is heralded for taking steps to maximize research benefits.
- Increased funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an important component of the Capito Connect Plan. In West Virginia, ARC also plays a vital role in economic diversification and job creation.
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