The House of Representatives on July 25 cleared legislation on next year's budgets for the U.S. Departments of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including housing and homeless programs serving adults with severe mental illnesses. The bill, known as the FY 2004 VA-HUD Appropriations bill (HR 2861), is a massive $90 billion measure that contains both the $37 billion HUD budget and $27.2 billion for the VA Health Care System. It is not expected that the Senate will take up the VA-HUD spending bill until after the August congressional recess. Congress is supposed to complete action on this measure before FY 2004 begins on October 1 - a goal Congress will be hard pressed to meet.
It is important to note that the congressional budget resolution for FY 2004 sets tight constraints on overall federal discretionary spending - including for agencies such as HUD and VA. The result is that the FY 2004 VA-HUD spending bill is required to stay under a mandatory restriction that limits overall growth of agencies and programs covered under the bill to under 3%. This means that many programs under the bill, especially those at HUD, are either frozen or cut to make room for larger increases for other programs. Until additional funds are added to the VA-HUD bill, i.e. above the $90 billion cap, it will be difficult for housing programs to receive additional funding without cutting spending on veterans' health care.
NAMI advocates are urged to contact their Senators and urge them to support additional overall funding for the FY 2004 VA-HUD Appropriations bill (HR 2861). In particular, NAMI advocates are encouraged to insist on additional funds for FY 2004 in order to:
All Senators can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org.
An in depth analysis of the House-passed version of the VA-HUD spending bill can be viewed at: http://www.nami.org/HUD/analysis
NAMI's testimony on the FY 2004 proposed budgets for the VA and HUD can be viewed at: