WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Mike Michaud (ME-02), Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, reacted to the federal government shutdown’s impact on veterans and warned his colleagues about the future impacts of sequestration on the administrative expenses of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“This is a sad day for America,” said Michaud. “While some critical services are spared, the government shutdown will have a direct impact on many veterans. I’m especially concerned with the impact a drawn-out shutdown could have on the ability of VA to make benefit payments. The political games need to stop and we must pass a funding resolution as soon as possible. Our veterans did nothing to deserve this uncertainty and shouldn’t be shouldering the burden of a broken Congress. This shutdown illustrates the real need for Congress to provide advance appropriations for all VA programs, not just health care.”
On August 1st, the committee approved H.R. 813 as amended, which would fundamentally change the way the VA forecasts its resource requirements and receives its annual funding. The “Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013” (H.R. 813), a bill Michaud introduced with Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01), requires Congress to fully fund the VA’s discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule, ensuring that all VA services will have timely and predictable funding. Also part of H.R. 813 as amended is the “Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning Reform Act of 2013,” legislation Michaud and Miller introduced to require the VA to institute a forward-looking strategy with goals and objectives, and a five-year program with expected outcomes, milestones and resources. The bill also designates a Chief Strategy Officer to ensure that the planning and programming phases of the process are fully implemented.
In addition to expressing concern over a government shutdown, Michaud is seeking to ensure that no future sequestration order would cut needed funding for veterans’ programs.
Although programs administered by the VA are exempt from sequestration, VA “administrative expenses” may not be protected from future across-the-board cuts. To ensure that the VA is not harmed by any future sequestrations, Michaud introduced the Defending Veterans from Sequestration Act of 2013 (H.R. 3181).
“While we are dealing with the impacts of the government shutdown, we can’t lose sight of the harmful effects of sequestration,” said Michaud. “While it’s largely acknowledged that VA programs are exempt from the across the board cuts, it’s not so clear that the VA’s administrative expenses would be spared if a future sequestration order is triggered. This is of great concern given how critical such expenses are to everything from processing claims to providing medical care to our veterans. I’m hopeful Congress can take up my bill in order to clarify that these expenses for the VA and veterans are also not subject to sequestration.”