Paralyzed Veterans of America is joining other veterans and military groups in urging Congress to pass advance funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure critical services for veterans are not suspended should another government shutdown occur come January 2014.
Veterans and military groups of The Military Coalition on October 15, 2013, gathered at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. to urge lawmakers and the President to come to an agreement and end the government shutdown. While the government reopened on Oct. 17 after a 16-day shutdown, veterans groups including Paralyzed Veterans are working to ensure veteran services are not impacted again because of political posturing.
With the current funding measure set to expire January 15, critical disability and education benefits – a lifeline to veterans and their families – are at risk unless Congress acts in advance to ensure the VA is fully funded.
“Now that the shutdown has essentially been put off until next January, we didn’t dodge a bullet, as some might believe. We dodged a boomerang,” said Sherman Gillums, Jr., associate executive director of veterans benefits at Paralyzed Veterans of America. “And it will inevitably come back to hit us if our government decides to shut down again.”
Paralyzed Veterans of America in particular expressed real concerns about the impact on in-home care that a prolonged shutdown would have on severely disabled veterans who pay an attendant. Severe disabilities like spinal cord injury, amputations or traumatic brain injury often require the expense of an in-home attendant who can assist veterans with activities of daily living, and many rely on VA compensation or pension payments to cover these necessary costs. Surviving spouses of veterans also rely on such payments to help pay out of pocket for their own attendant care.
“This is not a short-term problem with short-term solutions,” Gillums said, adding that assembling at a memorial or paying a modest one-time stipend may help in the moment but do not come close to providing long-term solutions.
Gillums pointed to actual programs within Paralyzed Veterans of America that are changing lives despite the political infighting occurring in Washington. These high-impact programs include:
“This is the best way to ensure veterans of all eras, particularly the most vulnerable among them, have what they need to thrive,” he said. “It starts with ensuring they get what they’ve earned and our government fulfills its promise.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.