A bipartisan group of leaders from the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees are pushing legislation Wednesday that would extend advance appropriations to all Department of Veterans Affairs programs.
Supporters of the bill, which include leaders of several veteran support organizations scheduled to appear with members of Congress at a 9 a.m. press conference on Capital Hill, say the recent government shutdown shows why advance funding should be extended to the entire VA budget.
“Our veterans deserve more than annual budgeting-by-crisis,” said the ranking Democrat on the House panel, Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine, who joined Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, the chairman of the committee, in introducing the legislation. “Now is the time to extend advance appropriations to the remaining VA discretionary accounts.”
“Considering that the recent budget deal to reopen the government only funds agencies until mid-January, we are already approaching another situation where VA benefits and services may be in jeopardy,” said Miller.
Congress already the medical care portion of VA’s discretionary budget – about 86 percent of the total – one year in advance, which allowed VA hospitals and clinics to operate without interruption during the shutdown. But other VA programs and services, including claims processing, were slowed because of furloughs.
“The shutdown taught us many unfortunate lessons,” said retired Navy Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America. “One lesson is that even our government can take veterans and their families for granted. We must ensure that in the future our veterans and their survivors and children will never have VA services and support disrupted. That can’t happen and we must not let it happen.”
“It is time for Congress to put the interests of veterans ahead of political benefit,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.