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VA Research Making Typically Uneventful Progress Through Appropriations

With controversy gripping the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), one area that has proved uncontroversial is VA research funding. The Administration had sought to keep the VA R&D budget essentially flat from FY 2014 levels at $1.2 billion, though inflation would mean in reality about a 1.3 percent cut. Last month, the House's FY 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill, with research numbers matching the President's budget, flew through committee and passed the full chamber on a nearly unanimous 416-1 vote. Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed their own version of the bill, which again matches the President's request and the House version. The bill must still pass the Senate floor, but FY 2015 funding levels appear set for VA R&D.

VA funds research on a variety of health issues relevant to veterans' well-being, including in mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder, prosthetics, brain and spinal injury, and other areas. Congress usually makes only minor, if any, adjustments to the VA research budget request, which has remained above $1 billion for the past six years.

In the House, the Appropriations Committee encouraged the VA to explore advanced prosthetic research "at the intersection of bioengineering, neuroscience, and rehabilitation," to convene an interagency working group on intelligent prostheses, and to pursue research in colorectal cancer. The Senate Committee encouraged greater collaboration between VA and the Department of Defense, particularly on prostate cancer research, and to include stroke survivors in VA's other brain-oriented research activities.