The Dept. of Veterans Affairs committed its entire $1.8 billion in economic-stimulus funds by July 31, the department has reported.  Much of the money has gone for upgrades to its network of health-care facilities around the country.

VA reached its goal two months ahead of the Sept. 30 funding-availability deadline that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set for the department.

The VA said Aug. 5 that its
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding has been turned into 1,521 contracts with 696 firms. It adds that 75% of the contractors are companies owned by veterans.

VA's construction-related ARRA allocation includes: $1 billion for "non-recurring maintenance" projects at its health-care facilities; $150 million in grants to states for nursing homes and other extended-care facilities: and $50 million for cemetery projects.

Many of VA's non-recurring maintenance contracts are small. But there are some larger ones, including:  $8.5 million to renovate a surgical suite at a VA medical center in Cleveland; $8 million to upgrade electrical system at a veterans' hospital in Hines, Ill.; and $$7.7 million for private and semi-private units at a New Haven, Conn., hospital.

According to a June ARRA progress report from VA, six projects
in the state-extended-care category, received stimulus grants valued at $10 million or more, including: $26.8 million for a Spring City, Pa., facility; $17.1 million for a nursing home and adult day health care center in Tucson; and $13.5 million for a nursing home in Swannanoa, N.C. 

Under this program, VA may pay up to 65% of the cost to build, acquire or renovate the extended-care facilities.

Although all of VA's ARRA money has been obligated, its actual outlays will lag those obligations--as with other federal agencies' stimulus programs. For example, in its June  progress report, VA estimated that its cumulative ARRA non-recurring-maintenance outlays would be $346 million as of this month. 

VA adds that outlays are projected to continue to rise in succeeding months, but won't hit the full $1 billion until December 2011,