Budget victory for veterans


Garry J. Augustine

Te omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress and signed last month by the president finally closed the book on federal budgeting for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, more than two months late and only after another threat of a government shutdown.
Lost in most of the media coverage of this massive legislation is a very significant victory for millions of veterans that will prevent this very type of political gridlock from threatening veterans’ benefits during any future budget battles or government shutdowns.
This short but consequential legislative provision is the culmination of a long legislative road sparked by the last government shutdown.
In October of 2013 as Congress and the administration once again failed to complete the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget on time, veterans and their families came within days of not receiving their disability, pension, education and survivor benefit payments. Many veterans rely on these VA checks to make ends meet.
Moved by the plight of veterans forced to worry how they would pay their bills, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and a coalition of other leading veterans organizations launched a campaign to pass new legislation ensuring that Congress will provide full funding for all mandatory veterans benefits up to a year in advance.
Advance appropriations, as it is known, will guarantee that the VA has sufficient resources in place to guarantee benefit checks go out the door on time, every month and every year.
Ironically, the same broken process that has delayed and jeopardized veterans’ benefits for 23 of the past 26 years became the very catalyst that spurred this landmark change in federal budgeting.
With enactment of the omnibus spending bill, Congress has effectively acted to protect veterans from Congress and all the partisan politics that have regularly stalled federal budget agreements.
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