Saturday, October 29, 2011

FYI - Below is the November/December timetable for VA Funding.
Al Labelle
Legislative Director
Disabled American Veterans
Department of Wisconsin

807 Maine Ave., SW ■ Washington, D.C. 20024-2410 ■ Phone (202) 554-3501 ■ Fax (202) 554-3581
October 2011
Uncertainty for VA Programs as Federal Budget and Deficit Debates Remain Unresolved

On October 5, 2011, President Obama signed a short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating untilNovember 18, at which time a new funding measure will have to be adopted.

By November 23, less than one week later, the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (often referred to as the “Super Committee”), must make its recommendations to the House and Senate about how to reduce the national debt by at least $1.2 trillion over the next ten years.

This Joint Committee was established in August with passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-25), which alsoenacted spending caps to reduce future spending by almost $1 trillion over ten years as part of a deal that allowed the federal debt ceiling to be raised.

After the Super Committee makes its recommendations, Congress must vote within one month (by December 23) on legislation to either accept or reject these recommendations to reduce the long-term debt of the United States.

If such legislation is approved by Congress, the President must then either enact or veto the legislation.
If no debt reduction legislation is enacted through this process, then the enforcement mechanisms contained in Public Law 112-25would trigger automatic across-the-board cuts resulting in an additional $1.2 trillion reduction in federal spending over the next ten years.

As we consider how these budget and deficit showdowns may affect veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it is important to remember that the VA health care system is already funded for the current fiscal year that began on October 1, thanks to the advance appropriations process that we fought so hard to enact a couple years ago.

As a result, veterans seeking medical care through the VA health care system should be at little risk of having their treatment interrupted or disrupted even if there is any type of government shutdown this year.

But while VA health care operations and personnel are funded for the balance of this fiscal year through next September 30, there still remain tens of thousands of VA personnel, including benefit claims processors, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and employment specialists, who could face work disruptions if Congress is unable to secure a longer term agreement on the budget or deficit reduction.

Veterans, survivors or dependents who receive mandatory federal benefit payments, such as disability compensation, can expect to continue receiving these benefits even in the event of a government shutdown, although there is some possibility that payments could be delayed, especially with respect to new claims.

Moreover, based on our interpretation of the Public Law 112-25 and prior budget laws, and after consultation with outside budget experts, it appears that VA health care and benefit programs would be exempt from any automatic budget cuts, including those mandated by a process called sequestration.

However, it is important to note that VA programs would not be exempt from the Super Committee process itself, should it recommend cuts to VA programs, services or benefits.

For this reason, we are working closely with both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees as they consider making recommendations to the “Super” Committee later this month.

We are also reaching directly to Members of the “Super” Committee and other congressional leaders to ensure that any legislation being considered to reduce spending or the deficit does not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of America’s veterans, especially disabled veterans.