The Government shutdown that began on September 30, 2013, created significant anxiety among veterans who depend on their disability compensation, pensions, and education benefits to thrive and survive. During the shutdown, processing appeals ground to a halt, thus dragging a struggling VA further behind in processing appeals. Likewise, the furloughs impaired the VA’s efforts to reduce the backlog of initial claims.
The good news was that Congress funds the VA healthcare system one year in advance. This meant that the Government shutdown did not limit healthcare available to veterans. The compromise resulting in resuming Government operations did not, unfortunately, resolve the problem. Veterans will again face the same risk of losing monthly disability checks in January 2014.
This is where the Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013 would come in. The most effective way to protect veterans from the political tumult is to provide advanced funding for VA compensation, pension, and education programs. The VA would then fully operate – not only in the health care arena but in the money benefit arena as well.
The tragic element is that no politician wants to hurt veterans; but, somehow the politics drives politicians to do so. An example of this is the Obama administration’s answer when asked whether it would support advanced funding. The Obama Administration declined to agree to sign such a bill citing that the process for advanced funding must be studied. This does not seem to be a sound conclusion based on the evidence because numerous Government programs are funded in advance.
Several veterans organizations – like the VFW – are lobbying to pass a bill allowing for advanced funding. For example, Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, stated that the shutdown “underscored the importance of passing advanced funding for the entirety of the VA. Never again should VA services be interrupted by political posturing.” If the political will exists to complete this before the next shutdown (which appears inevitable), then the VA programs could be insulated from the damage. So, veterans would do well to tell their representatives to pass the Putting Veteran Funding First Act.