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House Approves $8.4 Million for 177th Fighter Wing

By Herald Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-2nd), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, applauded the House passage of H.R. 6599, the “Fiscal Year 2009 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act,” by a vote of 409 to 4.
Included in the bill is $8.4 million for the 177th Air National Guard Fighter Wing which operates out of the Atlantic City International Airport for the new construction of Phase I of a two phase Operations and Training Facility. LoBiondo had previously secured the necessary authorization for the new Operations and Training Facility within the FY 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House in May.
“This federal funding is absolutely critical in expanding the facilities at the 177th Fighter Wing, which is tasked with arguably the most important mission in protecting our skies from New York City to Washington, D.C. and beyond,” said LoBiondo in a release. “I will continue to work with the men and women at the 177th and remain committed to ensuring they have all the resources they need to successfully complete their mission.”
The new facility will house key wing administrative functions, including offices for the wing commander and staff; environmental manager; public affairs; wing safety; support group commander and staff; counseling and family support services. It will also be the location for the new dining facility, honor guard and fitness areas.
Also included in the “Fiscal Year 2009 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act” is $47.7 billion to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – a $4.6 billion increase from fiscal year 2008. Specifically, the House-passed VA provisions include:
* $3.8 billion for specialty mental health care and $584 million for substance abuse programs;
* $1.6 billion to provide veterans with appropriate prosthetic options for combat wounds. This $250 million increase from fiscal year 2008’s allocation recognizes recent advances in prosthetic technology. An additional $500 million was included for research to improve the quality of life for injured and aging veterans;
* $100 million above the President’s request to increase the beneficiary travel reimbursement rate from 28.5 cents per mile to 41.5 cents per mile. This was a key issue for South Jersey veterans traveling to VA Medical Centers in Wilmington or Philadelphia for specialized treatment;
* $87.8 million for additional personnel for oversight activities at the VA Inspector General’s office. Representing a $7.3 million increase from fiscal year 2008, the additional support will go towards inspections of VA Medical Centers and community-based outpatient clinics, such as those in Ventnor, Cape May and Vineland.
“This legislation goes a long way towards improving medical services and access for our veterans, particularly in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. However, more can and must be done,” continued LoBiondo. “I am especially pleased by the increased travel reimbursements for South Jersey veterans. With the rising costs of fuel and time required to travel out-of-state for specialized treatment at VA medical centers, South Jersey veterans rightly deserve a fair reimbursement for their inconvenience.”

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