Letter to the editor: Don’t allow veterans to be used as politicians’ pawns
As our nation recently celebrated Veterans Day, Disabled American Veterans continues to work to fulfill our promises to the men and women who served the U.S. Starting with a Capitol Hill rally in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30, DAV has launched an all-out campaign to pass new legislation to extend advance appropriations so that all Department of Veterans Affairs programs, services and benefits are protected from budget stalemates and government shutdowns. In the coming weeks and months, DAV will be holding town hall meetings and rallies across the country as well as waging an aggressive social media campaign aimed at urging Congress to pass, and the president to sign, this important legislative protection.
Four years ago, thanks in large part to DAV’s tremendous grassroots advocacy, Congress passed legislation to provide advance appropriations for VA’s medical care programs. Because of that law, VA hospitals and clinics were able to continue operating during the recent shutdown. But other parts of the VA did not fare so well.
During the 16-day partial government shutdown, veterans saw many essential services closed or scaled back, including claims processing for disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation services and even burials at national cemeteries. In addition, had the shutdown continued for just a couple more weeks, more than 4 million veterans nationwide might have seen their disability compensation, pension or GI Bill of Rights payments cut off completely. For many, those funds are their primary or only source of income.
Bipartisan legislation called the Putting Veterans Funding First Act is pending in the House (H.R. 813) and Senate (S. 932) to extend advance appropriations to all VA programs. Given the recent shutdown experience, DAV and others are calling on House and Senate leaders to bring these bills to the floor, amend them to include mandatory benefits as well, then quickly pass and send a final bill to the president to sign before the end of the year.
I urge readers to join our nation’s veterans in this worthy grassroots effort. Please join with DAV (www.dav.org) to send a message to Congress and the White House that never again will we allow the men and women who served to be used as pawns during political fights over the budget.
(Saddler is North Dakota department commander of the Disabled American Veterans.)