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Military Construction, Veterans Affairs And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Under the previous order, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 3082, which the clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

A bill (H.R. 3082) making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.

Pending:

Johnson/Hutchison amendment No. 2730, in the nature of a substitute. Johnson amendment No. 2733 (to amendment No. 2730), to increase by $50,000,000 the amount available for the Department of Veterans Affairs for minor construction projects for the purpose of converting unused Department of Veterans Affairs structures into housing with supportive services for homeless veterans, and to provide an offset. Inouye amendment No. 2754 (to amendment No. 2730), to permit $68,500,000, as requested by the Missile Defense Agency of the Department of Defense, to be used for the construction of a test facility to support the Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe, with an offset. DeMint (for Inhofe) amendment No. 2774 (to amendment No. 2730), to prohibit the use of funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act to construct or modify a facility in the United States or its territories to permanently or temporarily hold any individual held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Feingold/Sanders amendment No. 2748 (to amendment 2730), to make available $5,000,000 for grants to community-based organizations and State and local government entities to conduct outreach to veterans in underserved areas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I am pleased to report that we are getting into the home stretch for the MILCON-VA appropriations bill. We have been on this bill 6 days now--I believe a record for the MILCON/VA bill. I thank my ranking member, Senator Hutchison, for her help in clearing amendments last evening which has put us within striking distance of completing this bill today.

The first amendment we are scheduled to vote on today is an amendment I have offered that will provide $50 million for the VA to renovate and use empty buildings sitting on VA medical campuses to provide housing with supportive services for our homeless vets.

The VA Secretary and the President have made eliminating homelessness among vets a top priority. The amendment is fully offset by redirecting $50 million over the President's budget request provided in this bill for DOD's Homeowners Assistance Program which the Pentagon has determined is not currently required.

This amendment is supported by 16 vets and homeless service organizations, including the VFW, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

I ask unanimous consent to have letters in support of my amendment printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Senator Johnson: As organizations working to end homelessness among veterans in America, we are writing to express our strong support and gratitude for your Amendment (SA 2733) to the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would shift $50 million to renovate and convert Department of Veterans Affairs' buildings into housing with supportive services for homeless veterans. We believe this proposed allocation is greatly needed, will be well spent, and ultimately will help save the lives of many brave veterans who have fallen upon hard times. Far too many veterans are homeless in America: approximately 131,000 on any given night, which represents between one-fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people. Convergent sources estimate that between 23 and 40 percent of homeless adults are veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that over the course of the year, 336,627 veterans experience homelessness. Community organizations around the country are eager to assist homeless veterans achieve stability, but a shortage of capital, operating and supportive services funding restricts the amount of good work they can do. The allocation provided in your amendment will help provide critical capital funding for housing homeless veterans on VA campuses. We also commend the Committee's proposed funding for the HUD-VASH program, the Grant and Per Diem program and for homeless prevention. Combined, these investments will allow the Department to increase its efforts to ensure every veteran has a safe place to sleep and call home. We are heartened by the Administration's stated commitment to zero tolerance for veterans' homelessness and strong Congressional support for programs that will help accomplish this goal. While the funding allocated by your amendment is an important contribution to fight against homelessness, we encourage your leadership in doing even more to provide safe and affordable housing for all the men and women who wore the uniform. Sincerely, Corporation for Supportive Housing. AMVETS. Common Ground. Disabled American Veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Jewish War Veterans of the USA. National Alliance to End Homelessness. National Association of Black Veterans. National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. National Health Care for the Homeless Council. National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. National Leased Housing Association. National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness. Paralyzed Veterans of America. Vietnam Veterans of America.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, according to the VA, there are 131,000 homeless vets on any given night. This is shameful. This amendment will allow the VA to put to good use buildings on VHA campuses currently sitting empty. It would allow private and nonprivate groups to operate homeless vet shelters in close proximity to the medical and mental health services these vets need in order to rebuild their lives.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

Mr. President, I yield to Senator Hutchison for any remarks she has.

The Senator from Texas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Mr. President, I thank Senator Johnson.

We have worked very well to accommodate the requests of our colleagues to the extent we could. We will have the first vote on his amendment. I am going to support Senator Johnson's amendment on homeless veterans. Secretary Gates and Secretary Shinseki are at this very moment practically working on a way to better accommodate veterans who are homeless. It is not right for there ever to be a homeless veteran in our country because every one of them has done so much to protect our freedom.

We do have $500 million in the bill. This would take $50 million that the Department says they do not need for other housing assistance for veterans and put it into the homeless sector so there can be a concerted effort to build facilities that would give care, as well as shelter, to these veterans. I support that.

I hope in conference we will be able to consolidate all of this into a program that will meet the needs of our veterans.

It has been great working on this bill. I am very pleased we could do it today rather than last week when so many of us in the Senate were at Fort Hood trying to show the great respect and sympathy for the community at Fort Hood and for all of our armed services, which meant we had to delay the bill from last Tuesday to this Tuesday. I think that was the right thing to do. I thank my colleague.

I thank our great staffs who worked all this week to clear amendments. To the extent we could, I think we have certainly accommodated our other colleagues in the Senate for their priorities.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

The Senator from South Dakota.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the vote sequence prior to the caucus recess period, with respect to amendments remaining in order to H.R. 3082, be as follows: Johnson amendment No. 2733; Feingold amendment No. 2748; Cochran amendment No. 2763; that the Inouye amendment No. 2754 be modified with changes at the desk, and once modified, the McCain amendment No. 2776 be withdrawn, the Inouye amendment, as modified, be agreed to, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table; further, that an Inouye-Levin colloquy be inserted in the Record upon the adoption of the amendment; that after the first vote in any sequence of votes today, the remaining votes be 10 minutes in duration; and that prior to the vote on passage of H.R. 3082, each manager control 2 minutes; provided further, that the other provisions of the November 16 order remain in effect.

Is there objection?

The Senator from Texas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Mr. President, I wish to ask the Senator if we could voice vote Senator Cochran before we take up the record vote we will take on Senator Johnson's amendment.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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That would be very good.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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I have no objection.

With that qualification, without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment (No. 2754), as modified, is as follows:

On page 27, between lines 3 and 4, insert the following: Sec. 128. (a)(1) The amount appropriated or otherwise made available by this title under the heading ``Military Construction, Defense-Wide'' is hereby increased by $68,500,000, with the amount of such increase to remain available until September 30, 2014. (2) Of the amount appropriated or otherwise made available by this title under the heading ``Military Construction, Defense-Wide'', as increased by paragraph (1), $68,500,000 shall be available for the construction of an Aegis Ashore Test Facility at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Hawaii. (b) Of the amount appropriated or otherwise made available by title I of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2009 (division E of Public Law 110-329; 122 Stat. 3692) under the heading ``Military Construction, Defense-Wide'' and available for the purpose of European Ballistic Missile Defense program construction, $69,500,000 is hereby rescinded.

The amendment (No. 2754), as modified, was agreed to.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

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Mr. President, I rise to engage in a colloquy with Senator Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee to discuss amendment No. 2754, which has been cosponsored by Senators Johnson and Cochran, to reallocate unobligated fiscal year 2009 military construction funding to support President Obama's new European missile defense plan.

Sen. Carl Levin

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I would be pleased to enter into a colloquy with the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

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I thank the chairman. Funding was appropriated in last year's MILCON/VA appropriations bill for the European missile defense sites but now can no longer be spent. This amendment will enable the Missile Defense Agency to meet the President's timelines for defending Europe and the United States sooner against Iranian missiles. In order to meet the timelines set out by the President to deploy a capability in Europe in the 2015 timeframe, General O'Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, MDA, has requested the Congress support the use of $68.5 million to construct an AEGIS Ashore Test Facility at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. The funding would come from the now unneeded funds for the two sites in Europe.

Sen. Carl Levin

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I want the chairman to know that I am also fully supportive of the administration's new approach to defending Europe from the threat of shorter range Iranian missiles based on the standard missile-3 both on ships and ashore, as well as the use of fiscal year 2009 funding that is no longer required for this purpose.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

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This amendment responds to that request from MDA, but was originally offered with some reservation because it would circumvent the normal order of business in the Senate. Under ordinary circumstances this project should have been authorized in the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act and then appropriated in the Military Construction bill. But, President Obama only publicly announced his European missile defense strategy on September 17 of this year. This announcement came well after the House and Senate Armed Services Committees began the conference negotiation process. In order to implement the President's new plan, General O'Reilly made the request to Congress for an AEGIS Ashore Test Facility on October 7, the same day that the House and Senate completed the conference agreement on the Defense authorization bill. The conferees were not able to consider this late request from the administration. Thus, an amendment on the fiscal year 2010 Military Construction appropriations bill was the best path to get the facility started in order to meet the administration's timelines.

Sen. Carl Levin

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While I agree that the funding previously authorized and appropriated for the European sites in fiscal year 2009 should be the source of funding for this project, I also feel that the project should be vetted in a manner similar to any other MILCON request. I believe we also have the time to authorize the project. As I understand the current timeline the Missile Defense Agency has sufficient planning and design funding to initiate design of the project and also has sufficient funding to begin the required environmental work. It is also my understanding that construction won't actually begin until late summer of 2010. I would expect that the preliminary nature of the current funding request would mature in time to support a timely authorization.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

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I understand that the chairman intends to introduce a separate authorization bill for this project that will precede the normal fiscal year 2011 national Defense authorization bill process.

Sen. Carl Levin

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That is correct. I will introduce a separate bill today along with Senator McCain. The committee will expedite consideration of this bill provided that we can get the normal assurances that the project is supported by the Secretary of Defense and that the proposed construction costs and timelines are accurate and up to the standards we would normally expect in a similar MILCON project request.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I understand there is no objection to the Cochran amendment No. 2763. Therefore, on behalf of Senator Cochran, I call up his amendment and ask that the amendment be considered and agreed to and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.

The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from South Dakota [Mr. Johnson], for Mr. Cochran, proposes an amendment numbered 2763 to amendment No.

The amendment is as follows:

At the end of title II, add the following: Sec. 229. (a) Modification on Restriction of Alienation of Certain Real Property in Gulfport, Mississippi.--Section 2703(b) of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006 (Public Law 109-234; 120 Stat. 469), as amended by section 231 of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2009 (division E of Public Law 110-329; 122 Stat. 3713), is further amended by inserting after ``the City of Gulfport'' the following: ``, or its urban renewal agency,''. (b) Memorialization of Modification.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall take appropriate actions to modify the quitclaim deeds executed to effectuate the conveyance authorized by section 2703 of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006 in order to accurately reflect and memorialize the amendment made by subsection (a).

Without objection, the amendment is agreed to and the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

The amendment (No. 2763) was agreed to.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays on the Johnson amendment.

Is there a sufficient second?

There is a sufficient second.

If all time is yielded back, the question is on agreeing to the amendment. The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk called the roll.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin

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I announce that the Senator from West Virginia (Mr. Byrd) is necessarily absent.

Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote?

The result was announced--yeas 98, nays 1, as follows:

[Rollcall Vote No. 346 Leg.] YEAS--98 Akaka Alexander Barrasso Baucus Bayh Begich Bennet Bennett Bingaman Bond Boxer Brown Brownback Bunning Burr Burris Cantwell Cardin Carper Casey Chambliss Cochran Collins Conrad Corker Cornyn Crapo DeMint Dodd Dorgan Durbin Ensign Enzi Feingold Feinstein Franken Gillibrand Graham Grassley Gregg Hagan Harkin Hatch Hutchison Inhofe Inouye Isakson Johanns Johnson Kaufman Kerry Kirk Klobuchar Kohl Kyl Landrieu Lautenberg Leahy LeMieux Levin Lieberman Lincoln Lugar McCain McCaskill McConnell Menendez Merkley Mikulski Murkowski Murray Nelson (NE) Nelson (FL) Pryor Reed Reid Risch Roberts Rockefeller Sanders Schumer Sessions Shaheen Shelby Snowe Specter Stabenow Tester Thune Udall (CO) Udall (NM) Vitter Voinovich Warner Webb Whitehouse Wicker Wyden NAYS--1 Coburn NOT VOTING--1 Byrd

The amendment (No. 2733) was agreed to.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

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I move to lay that motion on the table.

The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.

The Senator from Wisconsin.

Sen. Russ Feingold

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I ask unanimous consent that my amendment be modified with the modifications I send to the desk.

Without objection, the amendment is so modified.

The amendment, as modified, is as follows:

On page 52, after line 21, add the following: Sec. 229. Of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this title, the Secretary shall award $5,000,000 in competitively-awarded grants to State and local government entities or their designees with a demonstrated record of serving veterans to conduct outreach to ensure that veterans in under-served areas receive the care and benefits for which they are eligible.

Sen. Russ Feingold

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Mr. President, I understand the amendment will now be accepted.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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It is accepted.

The question is on agreeing to the amendment.

The amendment (No. 2748), as modified, was agreed to.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy

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I move to lay that motion on the table.

The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.

The Senator from Texas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Mr. President, to comply with rule XLIV, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter from Senator Cochran in relation to his amendment.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Dear Dan: In my letter to Senators Johnson and Hutchison dated May 21, 2009, regarding the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction, Veterans Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, it was my intent that the item titled ``Aircraft Maintenance Administration Facility'' read as follows: Name: Aircraft Fuel Systems Maintenance Facility Location: Columbus Air Force Base, MS Purpose: To provide adequate facilities for aircraft fuel systems maintenance, conforming with applicable safety and environmental standards. ($10,000,000) I certify that neither I nor my immediate family has pecuniary interest in the congressionally directed spending item that I have requested, consistent with the requirements of paragraph 9 of Rule XLIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate. I also certify that I have posted this request on my website. Please feel free to call on me if you have any questions about this request. Adam Telle, a member of my staff, is also available as the committee staff considers this issue. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Thad Cochran, U.S. Senator.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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I thank the Chair and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Mr. President, I note that the second vote has been voiced, and so Members are free to leave.

The Senator from Texas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Mr. President, we are working on the managers' package, and probably in the next 15 minutes we will clear what has been cleared for the managers' package. There are a couple of people working with objections. But by 12:15, we will clear the managers' package so that following that, in accordance with the previous unanimous consent agreement, at 2:15 we will vote on the Inhofe amendment, after which we will then vote on final passage. So we will have two votes starting at 2:15, and the second vote will be the final vote on Veterans Affairs-Military Construction.

I yield the floor.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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The Senator from Maryland.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski

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Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business for the purposes of introducing a very poignant bill.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

(The remarks of Ms. Mikulski pertaining to the introduction of S. 2781 are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'')

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski

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I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Sen. Tim Johnson

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Madam President, we have agreed to a final group of amendments in a managers' package.

I ask unanimous consent that the following amendments be called up en bloc and that the amendments be considered and agreed to and, if modified, that the amendment as modified be agreed to and the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table en bloc:

Amendment No. 2775, to be modified; amendment No. 2777; and amendment No. 2783, to be modified.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Madam President, I have no objections to those amendments. I want to clarify that for amendment No. 2775, the modifications are at the desk. The same goes for amendment No. 2783; am I correct?

The Senator is correct.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

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Again, I have no objection.

The amendments (No. 2775, as modified; No. 2777; and No. 2783, as modified) were agreed to, as follows:

Veterans Affairs to address combat stress in women veterans)

At the end of title II, add the following: Sec. 229. (a) Study on Capacity of Department of Veterans Affairs To Address Combat Stress in Women Veterans.--The Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs shall carry out a study to assess the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs to address combat stress in women veterans. (b) Elements.--In carrying out the study required by subsection (a), the Inspector General shall consider the following: (1) Whether women veterans are properly evaluated by the Department for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military-related sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other combat-related conditions. (2) Whether women veterans with combat stress are being properly adjudicated as service-connected disabled by the Department for purposes of veterans disability benefits for combat stress. (3) Whether the Veterans Benefits Administration has developed and disseminated to personnel who adjudicate disability claims reference materials that thoroughly and effectively address the management of claims of women veterans involving military-related sexual trauma. (4) The feasability and advisability of requiring training and testing on military-related sexual trauma matters as part of a certification of Veterans Benefits Administration personnel who adjudicate disability claims involving post- traumatic stress disorder. (5) Such other matters as the Inspector General considers appropriate. (c) Reports.-- (1) Interim report.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Inspector General shall submit to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and to the appropriate committees of Congress, a report setting forth the plan of the Inspector General for the study required by subsection (a), together with such interim findings as the Inspector General has made as of the date of the report as a result of the study. (2) Final report.--Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Inspector General shall submit to the Secretary, and Congress, then the Secretary shall make recommendations for legislative or administrative action. (3) Appropriate committees of congress defined.--In this subsection, the term ``appropriate committees of Congress'' means-- (A) the Committees on Appropriations and Veterans' Affairs of the Senate; and (B) the Committees on Appropriations and Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives.

information technology infrastructure of the Department of Veterans

On page 52, after line 21, add the following: Sec. 229. (a) Study on Improvements to Information Technology Infrastructure Needed to Furnish Health Care Services to Veterans Using Telehealth Platforms.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall carry out a study to identify the improvements to the infrastructure of the Department of Veterans Affairs that are required to furnish health care services to veterans using telehealth platforms. (b) Availability of Funds.--The amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this title under the headings ``Departmental Administration'' and ``information technology systems'' shall be available to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out the study required by subsection (a).