Congress Wants to Shield Veterans From Another Government Shutdown

"This committee is again trying to look down the road and provide advanced appropriations authority for the remaining 14 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs' discretionary budget," said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine. "This committee is again trying to look down the road and provide advanced appropriations authority for the remaining 14 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs' discretionary budget," said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine. Clarke Canfield/AP file photo

During the last government shutdown, lawmakers feared veterans were days away from not receiving their disability checks.

Hoping to prevent a similar predicament, members of a House committee pressed Thursday for full funding for the Veterans Affairs Department's discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule.

Currently, only the department's health care services are funded a year in advance.

"This committee is again trying to look down the road and provide advanced appropriations authority for the remaining 14 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs' discretionary budget," said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, and the ranking member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, at a hearing about the department's budget request.

The Veterans Affairs Department is asking for $164 billion for its total 2015 fiscal year budget, a 6.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Members on both sides of the aisle and multiple outside groups back giving advanced appropriations to the department. Proponents argue that it would give the department and veterans greater certainty, particularly in regard to making benefits payments during a government shutdown.

But efforts to get advance funding for the rest of VA's budget have stalled. Michaud and committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced the Putting Veterans Funding First Act, which passed the House Veterans Committee but has languished before the full body.

A similar push was included in Sen. Bernie Sanders's wide-ranging veterans legislation, but that bill failed to pass a procedural vote, and the bill is essentially on hold as the Vermont independent tries to garner more Republican support.

During Thursday's hearing, Florida Democrat Rep. Corrine Brown backed giving the department full advance funding and asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to weigh in.

Although Shinseki didn't reject the idea, he stressed that advance appropriations wouldn't let the department avoid all of its problems if the government shuts down again.

"We still have to go to the Social Security agency to validate other disabilities payments. We have to go IRS to validate threshold income levels," Shinseki said. "...This is a bigger discussion in some aspects than just the VA budget."

Instead, Shinseki reiterated a familiar Obama administration talking point: "What would be most helpful to VA, [is] for … the federal government to get a budget every year."

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

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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