Murkowski Supports Funding for Military Construction and VA
$286 Million for Alaska Military Construction Projects
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MILCON-VA) Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019. The bill contains several priorities championed by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to help further develop Alaska’s strategic military presence and improve health services for veterans.
“Alaska has the highest veteran population per capita in the country. I remain committed to equipping our veterans with the support they need, including ensuring that Alaska’s VA health facilities are fully staffed and deliver the quality of care veterans deserve. I’m pleased these priorities are reflected in this bill,” said Senator Murkowski. “This funding bill is also critical to providing the resources that we need to grow the military’s strategic presence in Alaska. The Air Force has identified Eielson’s new F-35 mission as one of its top funding priorities and I am pleased to see that they are putting substantial investments toward that mission.”
The bill includes the following Alaska provisions:
Alaska Military Construction
- $63.8 million for four projects at Eielson Air Force Base related to the F-35 beddown, bringing the total direct F-35 major military construction investment to $565.5 million since Fiscal Year 2016.
- $174 million for Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) Phase II at Clear Air Force Station, bringing the total direct LRDR major military construction investment to $329 million since Fiscal Year 2017.
- $8 million for the improvement of the existing missile field #1 at Fort Greely.
- $41 million for two projects at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson: a new U.S. Property and Fiscal Office building for the Alaska Army National Guard and a new Fuels Operations Facility for the Defense Logistics Agency.
Veterans Affairs (VA)
- Access to Care for Rural Alaska Veterans: Senator Murkowski inserted language allowing the VA to purchase healthcare from the Alaska Native Healthcare System and Federally Qualified Health Centers, separate and apart from the existing Choice Program.
- VA Medical Care: Provides $78.3 billion to support medical treatment and healthcare, including $8.6 billion for mental health, $860.8 million for the Caregivers Program, $400 million for opioid misuse prevention and treatment, $525 million for women veterans’ healthcare, and $270 million for rural health initiatives.
- State Prescription Drug Monitoring: Murkowski secured language requiring the VA to report to Congress on its progress in participation in State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. Legislation enacted in 2017 requires that the VA participate in these state programs as previous participation was voluntary. Murkowski’s language requires that the VA establish benchmarks and timelines to ensure full participation and identify any impediments to full participation. The language also encourages the VA to share prescription drug information with other federal medical facilities that may serve veterans, including DoD medical facilities and Indian Health Service facilities. All of these efforts are intended to prevent overprescribing of opioids and other addictive medications.
- Women Veterans: Senator Murkowski supported an amendment offered by Senator John Tester (R-MT) requiring the VA to report to Congress on its progress in constructing appropriate modifications to ensure the privacy of women veterans at VA clinics.
- Claims Processing: Provides $3 billion for proper staffing and resources necessary to reduce the wait time and backlog of disability decisions on appeal.
- Construction: Funds $1.8 billion for construction projects to improve access to VA healthcare and the VA’s National Cemeteries, including $150 million in construction grants for State Extended Care Facilities.