Late this week, Fiscal 2009 302(b) Appropriations Subcommittee Allocations were announced, including an allocation of $153.1 billion for the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds multiple TBI-related programs, including programs authorized through the TBI Act.
Last month, BIAA signed on to a coalition letter urging Appropriations Committee Chairs in both chambers to allocate an additional $15 billion over last year's funding levels for the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittees. Instead, the announced allocation of $153.1 billion represents an increase of $7.9 billion over last year.
Now that 302b Subcommittee allocations have been determined, the Fiscal 2009 appropriations process can officially go forward with committee markups and other official action.
House and Senate Appropriations markup schedules were announced this week, with the House tentatively set to mark up its Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill on June 19, and the Senate scheduled to mark up its version of the bill during the week of June 23.
Despite progress on individual spending bills, though, there is widespread speculation that this year's appropriations process will eventually be stalled, as Democrats may wait for the president to leave office before completing work on the funding bills in order to avert a promised veto.
House VA Committee Holds Hearing On FY08 NDAA Wounded Warrior Provisions
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held an important hearing on implementing the Wounded Warrior provisions contained in last year's defense authorization bill, including several BIAA-supported provisions focused specifically on TBI care for returning servicemembers.
The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Lisa H. Jaycox and Terri L. Tanielian, the lead authors of the recently published RAND study, "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." Testimony was also given by representatives of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Michael L. Dominguez, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, reported that DoD "is about to expand a program to collect baseline neuro-cognitive information on all Active and Reserve personnel before their deployment to combat theaters." He also detailed progress made in recent months by the newly established Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and TBI.
Rear Admiral Patrick W. Dunne, USN (Ret.) testified on behalf of the VA, noting that the VA is actively collaborating with DoD to support the activities of the new Defense Center of Excellence, and that VA's contribution will including providing two subject matter experts to the Center - one in TBI, and one in PTSD.
Rear Admiral Dunne also noted that VA and DoD are jointly developing clinical practice guidelines for TBI for use by both Departments, to be completed by September 2008. In addition, the VA is in the process of establishing a five-year Assisted Living Pilot project for veterans with TBI.