Military appropriations bill includes provisions championed by Gluesenkamp Perez

Jun. 10—A military appropriations bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week includes two provisions championed by Third Congressional District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania.

According to the lawmaker, the bipartisan Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act would increase funding for veterans' health care, claim processing, caregivers, toxic exposure care and facility construction.

The proposal includes $75.5 billion more in funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) than the president requested and $30.2 billion more than the VA received in fiscal year 2024.

"Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect freedom and democracy — and it's our nation's obligation to make sure veterans can access the high-quality healthcare and support they've earned, so they can live full, healthy lives after returning home," Gluesenkamp Perez said. "Today, I voted with my bipartisan colleagues to pass funding for the VA programs and healthcare our nation's heroes rely on."

In a statement, Gluesenkamp Perez said one of her amendments would require the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to report its efforts to ensure veterans can still access health care after a VA clinic closes.

The amendment comes after the Chehalis VA clinic at the Lewis County Mall closed in 2021. Community members have called on the department to reopen a clinic in Lewis County for more than three years. The VA has said it closed the facility in part due to high operating costs.

The legislation also includes an amendment to expand the Highly Rural Transportation Grant (HRTG) program, which awards funding to veteran service organizations and state agencies to provide transportation for veterans.

In her statement, Gluesenkamp Perez said, "Despite the important provisions for our veterans, extreme Members of Congress used this bill to propel senseless, partisan culture wars. I voted against these harmful amendments, and I refuse to play into clickbait politics."

Last week, President Joe Biden said he would veto the legislation in its current form, which he said would result in "deep cuts to law enforcement, education, housing, health care, consumer safety, energy programs that lower utility bills and combat climate change, and essential nutrition services."

Biden singled out provisions of the bill that would prevent the closure of a naval station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prevent the VA from using funds to provide hormone therapies and surgical procedures for gender-affirming care and curtail a directive designed to ensure most personnel receive COVID-19 vaccines, among other provisions he objected to.

"The administration stands ready to engage with both chambers of the Congress in a bipartisan appropriations process to enact responsible appropriations bills that fully fund

Federal agencies in a timely manner," the statement reads.

In response to the potential veto, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said a veto would send a "terrible signal" to the United State's allies and adversaries.

"The president's push toward radical and woke policies is a continuing threat to our national security," Johnson said. "His agenda is changing the focus of our military, undermining our readiness and rejecting the promises made to our veterans. He must reverse course so we can again prioritize America's strength and safety."

While she voted for the bill, Gluesenkamp Perez said she hopes a "more balanced, final bill that respects the rights and freedoms of all veterans when they make health care and life decisions" will emerge from negotiations between the House and Senate.