Senator Suggests Using War Funds to Pay for Vets Benefits Bill

Harry Hamburg/AP file photo

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., suggested Wednesday that war funds could be used to pay for some or all of his omnibus veterans bill, but he could face an uphill battle in the House.

The bill, which Sanders introduced last week, tackles a swath of veterans issues, including health care, education, employment, and -- an issue on the minds of many members of Congress -- restoring the roughly $6 billion in pensions cut during the budget agreement to working-age military retirees.

Sanders proposed offsetting the cost of the legislation by using the Overseas Contingency Operations funds, which have been used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I believe, having looked at this, that there is more than enough money in that fund to fund this legislation," Sanders said. But he noted that the final decision will have to be made in conjunction with Senate Democratic leadership.

Sanders told reporters Wednesday that he expects the legislation to cost $30 billion over 10 years.

The Vermont independent said Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to bring the bill before the Senate "as quickly as he possibly can," but sidestepped questions on a specific timeline.

Reid has filed the bill under Rule 14 -- which allows legislation to skip the committee process -- meaning the proposal could be taken up as soon as the Senate reconvenes next week.

"This is one of the most comprehensive pieces of veterans legislation that has been introduced in decades," Sanders said, adding that the bill tackles many concerns raised in recent years.

Approximately 18 military and veterans organizations have backed the proposal, and the senator said he believes it will soon have the support of every major veterans organization in the country.

The bill includes several pieces of legislation previously passed out of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and Sanders noted that many of those bills received bipartisan support. He said he has yet to reach out to Republican colleagues, but plans to do so soon.

Although Sanders said he is "optimistic that we can work with our friends in the House," a Republican aide with the House Veterans' Affairs Committee quickly pushed back against the proposal.

"That money is not a regular budget item and by design will run out once Overseas Contingency Operations have ended, and therefore is probably not the best vehicle to use as an offset," the aide said, referring to using the OCO funds to pay for the veterans bill.

A 2012 Congressional Budget Office report notes that "there is no 'OCO fund' set aside in the Treasury from which resources can be drawn in future years."

The Republican aide added that although members "support the ultimate goals of a number of initiatives" in Sanders's bill, "we feel veterans would be better served if the Senate took a more measured, piecemeal approach to passing some of the initiatives."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.