VA readies $16.6 billion request for virus-related influx

The VA request would be in a new administration proposal that has not yet been released.

The Tibor Rubin Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach on July 31, 2019. The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to request over $16 billion to prepare for a possible influx of veterans suffering from coronavirus. (Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images)
The Tibor Rubin Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach on July 31, 2019. The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to request over $16 billion to prepare for a possible influx of veterans suffering from coronavirus. (Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images)
Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:19am

The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to ask Congress for an additional $16.6 billion as the department prepares for a potential wave of veterans afflicted with COVID-19.

Multiple congressional aides confirmed the plans as the Trump administration readies another emergency request to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The Senate is considering a second House-passed aid package for affected businesses and employees Tuesday, following an $8.3 billion law that Congress cleared earlier this month related to vaccine research and medical supplies.

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The department is also contemplating a separate ask related to IT, an aide said.

The veterans' funding will be part of a new supplemental request package being written by the Office of Management and Budget, which also is expected to include substantial funding for the departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Homeland Security and other agencies.

This supplemental request will be in the range of tens of billions of dollars to provide aid for more than a dozen federal agencies related to the coronavirus pandemic, said a person with knowledge of the proposal.

This proposal, anticipated to be released as soon as Tuesday but more likely Wednesday morning, is separate from another $850 billion economic stimulus package that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is developing.

VA spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci declined to confirm details of the request.

"VA is planning for all contingencies but has not finalized any plans or made any requests," she told CQ Roll Call.

The VA serves around 9 million veterans at its 1,255 facilities across the country, including 170 medical centers. As the nation's largest integrated health system, it also serves as a back-up for private-sector hospitals in times of crisis, which is known as the department's fourth mission."

But an aide said the funding request would only be related to the "first mission" of care for veterans.

The Trump administration previously requested $105 billion in discretionary funding for the agency in its fiscal 2021 budget.

The department is reporting five confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with another 33 veterans testing positive but awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One veteran in Portland, Ore., has died.

Agency guidance sent to the Hill earlier this week outlined the process for state and local authorities to request emergency resources from the VA. Local requests would be routed through regional emergency contacts at the Department of Health and Human Services, which would then be transferred to the HHS Secretary's Operations Center. HHS would then designate requests to various agencies, including the VA.