The COVID pandemic caused major disruptions to health care, making it extremely difficult to access care, particularly for veterans. According to Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Denis McDonough, as of February 2021, the pandemic led to 19.7 million canceled, delayed or moved appointments. One year into the pandemic, the backlog of compensation and pension claims nearly tripled to 212,000. And tragically, more than 10,300 veterans and 131 Veterans Affairs staff lost their lives as a direct result of the pandemic.

As the Biden Administration took office, veterans and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) were in serious need of assistance. In the United States, it’s estimated that 62% of veterans, nine million people, depend on the Veteran Affairs’ hospital system. So in March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, delivering billions of dollars for investments for veterans and the VA hospital system.

The American Rescue Plan rushed critical COVID supplies to hospitals and first responders, boosted vaccine distribution, funded safety improvements in schools, and spent billions supporting state and local governments and their economies. Billions of dollars in the American Rescue Plan targeted the VA hospital system, which struggled to adequately serve veterans during the pandemic. For many veterans, the American Rescue Plan’s assistance was a lifeline, and the bill continues to help get veterans the care they deserve.

Here’s a more detailed look at how the bill helped and is helping Veterans across the nation:

The American Rescue Plan’s $17 Billion Investment Towards Veterans Ensures They Receive The Care They Need

The American Rescue Plan’s $17 billion investment in the VA helped ensure that Veterans received care during the pandemic and made improvements to the VA system.

  • $14.5 billion for COVID-19 related health care
    • These investments upgraded technology and facilities, ensuring better access and care for the 9.2 million enrolled veterans who may have delayed care or have more complex health care needs as a result of the pandemic.
  • $1 billion for veterans’ debt forgiveness
    • The American Rescue Plan included a provision that canceled copayments for medical care and pharmacy services from April 6, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.
    • Direct refunds were also issued to veterans to help them make ends meet.
  • $400 million to help get veterans back to work
    • The American Rescue Plan included funding to get veterans back to work by funding up to 12 months of rapid retraining assistance and a housing allowance for veterans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
    • The law allows qualifying veterans between the ages of 22 and 67 to receive up to 12 months of tuition and fees and monthly housing allowance payments.
  • $262 million to reduce the backlog of veterans compensation and pension claims
    • The American Rescue Plan will enable the Veterans Benefits Administration to reduce the claims backlog to around 100,000 by September 2022, down from more than 212,000 in March 2021.
  • $64.7 million in grants to improve housing options veterans experiencing homelessness
    • Through 36 grants, funds will construct new buildings and renovate existing housing, which provides more than 900 beds nationwide for homeless veterans, reduce the use of group housing, and increase the use of individual unit-style living.

The American Rescue Plan Supported Veterans And Their Families

Beyond investing directly in the VA, the American Rescue Plan supported veterans and their families with once-in-a-generation rescue funds for local communities.

  • The Child Tax Credit supported 2.6 million military families and 5 million children
    • An estimated 2.6 million veteran or active-duty families were eligible for a new or bigger Child Tax Credit in 2021 thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s expansions of the credit. This funding helped some five million children.
    • The tax cut allowed military families to keep more of their income, feed their children, buy school supplies, and pay for health care.
  • The Restaurant Revitalization Fund allocated $1 billion in critical relief funds to veteran-owned small businesses.
    • The Restaurant Revitalization Fund has supported more than 100,000 restaurants and other food and beverage businesses across the nation.
    • Of the $28.6 billion allocated, $18 billion in relief aid has been distributed to women-owned businesses ($7.5 billion), socially and economically disadvantaged-owned businesses ($6.7 billion), and veteran-owned businesses ($1 billion).