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Begich Supports Investments in Alaska Veterans & Military Infrastructure

Bill Promotes Access to Health Care for Rural Vets, Strengthens Alaska’s Military Bases in Appropriations Subcommittee

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich fought to keep our national security strong, reinforce Alaska’s role as a strategic military location, and strengthen services for Alaska veterans in the Fiscal Year 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act that was approved by the Senate Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs today.

The bill provides appropriations for the Department of Defense BRAC, military construction and family housing accounts in addition to all appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“With a strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, Alaska is critical to our national defense,” said Begich.  “And with more veterans per capita than any other state, I am proud to have successfully fought for the improved services these men and women deserve. Today’s bill includes provisions to invest in Alaska military bases and provide more access to health care for our veterans.”

At the request of Senator Begich several Alaska-specific provisions were included in the bill to address the Veterans Administration claims backlog and expand access to health care for rural veterans. Additionally, the subcommittee rejected the Department of Defense’s request for a BRAC round in 2015 which Senator Begich has strongly opposed. Earlier this year, he introduced a Senate Resolution rejecting the 2015 BRAC.   Begich also worked with his colleagues to include measures to increase efficiency and taxpayer savings by cutting funding for unnecessary military construction overseas and putting in place measures to prevent funds from being spent on lavish conferences.

The bill will now head to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for markup and debate on Thursday.

Highlights of the current bill include:

Strengthening Alaska’s Military Presence:

Provides Millions for Alaska Military Construction –Allocates $202 million in resources for military construction projects in Alaska at Fort Wainwright ($103M), Clear Air Force Station ($17.2M), Fort Greely ($82M)

Rejects the BRAC – Mandates that the Department of Defense (DOD) conduct a comprehensive overseas base review prior to closure of domestic bases.

Support for Alaska Veterans:

Support for Rural Veterans Housing - $21,000 for a total of $1.2 million of Native American Veteran Housing Loan Program recognizing a higher cost in remote areas.

Access to Veterans Health Care in Alaska – Requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a plan and report on bringing care “closer to home” by decreasing the number of vets who must travel outside the states for care.

Improved Collaboration between IHS and VA - – Requires the Indian Health Service (IHS)  and the VA to work collaboratively to serve eligible populations. 

Reduction in Veterans Backlog – Provides resources to upgrade IT systems to process claims faster, provide new training for the VA workforce and would require regular reports to Congress on the progress and establish quality review teams to ensure appropriate processing of claims.

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