WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Joni Ernst released the following statement, after voting in support of the combined Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and the Transportation, Housing, Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act:

“It is imperative that our country lives up to the promises made to our veterans and to ensure they receive a quality of care that we can all be proud of. This bill includes funding for veterans reform priorities, including construction of military hospitals and health facilities, improvements to benefit claims processing, added whistleblower protections, support for veterans’ caregiver services, homeless veterans’ assistance, and medical and prosthetic research. I’m especially pleased with the accountability measures provided to ensure taxpayer money is spent wisely.

“Building on my efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, I offered an amendment to withhold all bonuses directed to executives of the benefits administration, and redirect those funds toward reducing the veterans’ disability appeals claims backlog. While I’m disappointed my amendment was not adopted, it underscores my commitment to put the focus back on our veterans and improve the care they deserve.

“In addition, I’m pleased this funding proposal includes improvements for our transportation, urban development and housing needs – including added support for Iowa’s roadways.

“I take seriously the responsibility Iowans have entrusted in me to make our government more competent and less wasteful. This funding proposal makes concerted efforts to prioritize what is needed and move away from hasty spending decisions.” 

Ernst Amendments Offered to Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act Section (ultimately not adopted):

  • An amendment to withhold all funds dedicated to Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) senior executives’ bonuses and instead to be put towards reducing the veteran disability appeals claim backlog.
  • An amendment to prohibit Congressional funding for administrative leave that falls outside of standard administrative leave, as defined by Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidelines.
  • An amendment to prohibit bonuses for the VA senior executives and leadership staff until the Secretary of the VA reports on a VA plan to address the 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concerning the lack of analytic support and flawed savings estimates.
  • An amendment to prohibit bonuses for the VA senior executives and the Office of Construction and Facilities Management’s senior leadership until the Secretary of the VA reports on how the VA will reduce their GAO designations as “high-risk” in federal real property portfolios, due to longstanding problems with excess and underutilized property and overreliance on leasing.
  • An amendment to prohibit funding for the procurement of art work or art related consulting services, including in new construction, until the Secretary of the VA alerts Congress that the appointment backlogs for veterans seeking primary care has been eliminated.

Ernst Amendments Offered to Transportation, Housing, Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act Section (ultimately not adopted):

  • An amendment to bring funding for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program back down to the level of the President’s request of $500,000 from the $5,000,000 included in this bill.
  • An amendment to eliminate funding for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program.
  • An amendment to prohibit funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission to eliminate this duplicative program that only serves a certain region of the country.

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