Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today announced Senate passage of the $165 billion supplemental appropriations bill to provide for our nation’s servicemembers and fund ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Chairman of the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Johnson secured more than $4 billion in the bill to improve barracks at U.S. Army installations and build new VA polytrauma centers.
“I have worked hard to help craft a bill that immediately provides our servicemembers with the emergency funding they desperately need,” Johnson said. “I am proud to have secured resources to improve the deplorable situation at barracks across the country and address the medical needs of our soldiers. The President should act quickly to provide members of the Armed Forces with the care and conditions they have earned.”
As Chairman of the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Johnson secured more than $4 billion in the supplemental. That includes $200 million for barrack improvements at U.S. Army installations and $437.1 million for construction at VA polytrauma centers.
South Dakota Specifics
Included in the bill is $400 million for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.The funding compensates local school districts for decreased revenue as a result of reduced timber production on public forest lands. Six counties in western South Dakota are receiving payments through the program, including Pennington, Custer, Lawrence, Meade, Fall River, and Harding.
The supplemental also contains a delay of several Medicaid rules proposed by the Bush administration. If allowed to take effect, these rules would substantially reduce federal Medicaid funding to South Dakota. Senator Johnson has worked on several fronts to delay these rules and is pleased a delay is included in this legislation. If enacted, this rule would cost South Dakota more than $7.4 million annually.
Barrack Improvements: The recommendation includes $200 million for Barracks Improvements at U.S. Army installations. In late April, the father of a soldier returning from Afghanistan videotaped the conditions of his son’s barracks at Fort Bragg. Since then, shoddy living conditions have been found at other installations.
VA Polytrauma Centers: The recommendation includes $437.1 million for construction at VA polytrauma centers. Space at two of the polytrauma centers is currently inadequate, cramped, and scattered throughout the hospital campuses, causing patients with mobility issues, lowered immune systems, and those suffering from psychological wounds to traverse through the hospitals to reach rehabilitation therapy.
Webb GI Bill: Title IV of the supplemental recommendation includes a new educational assistance benefit for servicemembers who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, including activated reservists and National Guard. It would bring benefits back up to the levels that World War II veterans received.