December 20, 2007
Few federal agencies or departments lost more funding between the FY 2008 funding bills passed by Congress earlier this fall and vetoed by the President and this final omnibus catch-all funding bill than the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill vetoed by the President in November (HR 3043/S 1710) had proposed a 3.1% increase above FY 2007 across every NIH institute, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). By contrast, the final Omnibus bill lowered that increase to about 2% (what would have been a $29 million boost for NIMH). However, imposition of the 1.747% across-the-board in the Omnibus bill all but wipes out that increase.
As a result, the funding increase for NIMH for FY 2008 is just under $5 million above FY 2007 – far below the amount needed to keep pace with annualized increased cost of doing medical research. The final number for NIMH is expected to be around $1.405 billion. If so, this will likely mean that NIMH will struggle to fund the same number of new and continuing research grants that it undertook in FY 2007.
Despite this disappointing result, NAMI is extremely grateful to leaders in Congress that pushed all year for larger increases for budget for the NIH including Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representatives David Obey (D-WI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chris Shays (R-CT), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Chris Smith (R-NJ).
As with the NIMH, programs at SAMHSA and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) lost significant ground between the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill vetoed by the President in November and the final omnibus spending bill that will soon become law. The bill does restore all of the $159 million in cuts for CMHS proposed by President Bush. Factoring in the 1.747% across-the-board cut however, most programs at CMHS end up close to, or below, their FY 2007 level. These include:
Finally, the final Omnibus spending bill includes restoration of $34 million in reductions in the President’s budget for a range of discretionary programs at CMHS under Programs of Regional and National Significance (PRNS) including state incentives grants, youth violence prevention and elderly services. In the case of state incentive grants, the Administration was proposing to end existing Mental Health Transformation Grants at the end of their two year cycle. Again, all of these activities will be subject to the 1.747% across-the-board cut.
The final FY 2008 Omnibus funding bill includes a $150 million increase for the administrative budget for the Social Security Administration (SSA). This means that the administrative budget for the SSA (known as the Limitation on Administrative Expenses or LAE) will be $9.747 billion for FY 2008 (the President’s FY 2008 budget request for SSA’s LAE was $9,597 billion).
Congress is directing that these additional funds are to be allocated toward helping reduce the enormous backlog in claims for eligibility for disability benefits under SSI and SSDI. Currently, there are more than 758,000 claims for disability benefits waiting for administrative hearings at SSA, with 144,000 cases pending longer than 900 days. The average waiting time to get a hearing at SSA now exceeds 500 days. In addition, SSA field offices are being forced to slash hours all across the country. For many people with severe disabilities (including mental illness), SSI and SSDI benefits are the only means of income and basic support. As a result of this backlog in resolving claims and appeals, many people with disabilities are becoming destitute, declaring bankruptcy, and losing their homes. These additional funds are critical to addressing this crisis.
The final Omnibus spending bill includes the FY 2008 budget for the Justice Department and allocates $6.8 million for programs under the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA, P.L. 108-414). This includes funding for a range of programs including pre-booking diversion, training of law enforcement and post-sentence re-entry. Congress allocated $5 million for this program in FY 2007.