The VA Just Got $17 Billion in COVID Relief Money. Here’s How They Plan to Spend It

A Montana VA nurse administers the Moderna vaccine to a veteran.
A Montana VA nurse administers the Moderna vaccine to a veteran at the Montana VA Health Care System vaccination clinic for Montana veterans at the Helena Aviation Readiness Center, March 20, 2021 (U.S. Army National Guard/Spc. Emily Simonson)

The Department of Veterans Affairs just received over $17 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. How will they spend that money?

Of the $17 billion-plus in emergency funding that will add to the department’s $243 billion fiscal 2021 budget, which runs through Sept. 30, $10 billion is earmarked directly for health-care and homeless programs. Another $4 billion is allocated to the Community Care or MISSION program that provides medical care from civilian providers in certain cases.

That means that the majority of the emergency funding will go right back to caring for veterans. While no special or individual programs have been announced by the VA, the fact that the funding is earmarked to provide services directly to veterans is not a bad thing.

Another $1 billion of the emergency funding goes to cover the medical bills of veterans.

According to the law, that money is earmarked to write off veterans copayments for medical care provided by the VA from April 2020 through September 2021.

Still more money is going to help veterans who were affected economically by the COVID-19 crisis. A total of $386 million is designated for the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program, which offers up to 12 months of cash payments to eligible veterans who enroll in job training programs for high-demand jobs.

The remaining money is divided between several programs, including:

  • $100 million to modernize VA’s health-care supply chain
  • $750 million in grants to state veterans homes and nursing homes
  • $272 million to speed up compensation claims processing and appeals
  • $80 million to pay for special medical leave for VA employees affected by COVID-19
  • $10 million to the VA’s Inspector General program to keep tabs on all that money.

This $17 billion is in addition to $19.5 billion in emergency funding provided to the VA as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

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