Government Shutdown Jeopardizes Delivery of Health Care and Benefits Services
October 3, 2013, the co-authors of The Independent Budget—AMVETS, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars—called for the House of Representatives and Senate to take immediate action to give final approval to legislation providing the full year’s FY 2014 appropriation for all veterans programs.
In a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate, the organizations expressed tremendous disappointment at Congress’ inability to pass a full annual budget leading to the current government shutdown. They emphasized, "Your failure is already causing real harm to the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for this nation. These are real impacts on veterans, many of whom are struggling to transition back into civilian life."
The current government shutdown has stopped work on the more than 250,000 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appeals that are awaiting adjudication; compensation, pension and education benefits are in jeopardy of not being paid; Vocational Rehabilitation offices are working with reduced staffs; and the Department of Labor’s VETS programs and federal employment OneStops are closed.
The letter went on to state, "Furthermore, funding the operations of the VA through short-term continuing resolutions (CRs) or other stop-gap measures are not acceptable solutions. CRs also prevent VA from starting or expanding critical programs and disrupt or delay vital new research and construction projects."
The organizations also called for the House and Senate to immediately consider and approve H.R. 813 and S. 932, legislation that would extend advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory appropriations accounts. Advance appropriations have shielded VA health care from most of the harmful effects of the current government shutdown as well as prior continuing resolutions. Approval of this legislation would provide the same protections to all remaining discretionary and mandatorily funded veterans programs, including disability compensation processing and payments.
The Independent Budget veterans service organizations concluded: "Our organizations and the millions of veterans we represent will no longer tolerate Congress leveraging veterans’ health and wellbeing to achieve unrelated political ends. Congress’ obligation to veterans does not start in the eleventh hour of a national crisis; you have an obligation to pass a timely, sufficient budget for all veterans programs, benefits and services."
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