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None of the proposals cited in the historical examples attached to the letter affects the six critical issues cited in the “Independent Budget Critical Issues Report for Fiscal Year 2012” — an annual report issued by a consortium of Veterans Service Organizations that highlights protection of health-care benefits, reforming the benefits-claims processing system, transition and employment for veterans, caring for war veterans, transforming the VA health-care delivery model and maintaining VA’s infrastructure as the most important issues facing veterans today.
“We all have a responsibility to America’s veterans to ensure that the benefits they have earned remain intact and that their needs remain a priority,” stated Mr. Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans‘ Affairs. “We also have a responsibility, however, to ensure that during these tough economic times, we provide to the Joint Select Committee information that is pertinent to its decision-making process in a transparent and bipartisan manner. Through this letter, we outline areas which in the past have been acted upon, in order to avoid even the possibility of across-the-board cuts that would have a devastating impact on our veterans and their families.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest federal department, yet its budget accounts for just under 4 percent of the total federal budget.
“We and our families who have and continue to serve and sacrifice the most need to raise our voices loudly and clearly before the nation’s debt is placed squarely on the shoulders of our military families and veterans,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran who leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.
“It is critical that our voices not be lost in the ongoing budget debate that seems to now equate national service and sacrifice with the size of health-care premiums,” he said. “The ‘people programs’ inside the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are expensive because it takes people to fight our wars, and with less than 1 percent of our citizens currently in uniform, any degradation of these hard fought-for programs will break faith with those who sacrifice the most, and will place the continued viability of the all volunteer military in serious jeopardy.”
The VFW national commander’s call to action is the result of three letters sent by the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee and both House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The letters support or suggest possible ways to eliminate or reduce quality of life programs and benefits in order to avoid more drastic budget cuts should a deficit reduction deal fail to pass by Thanksgiving Day.
Sending individual letters were Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat; and Ranking Member John McCain, Arizona Republican. The joint Senate/House VA Committee letter was signed by Senate Chairman (and Select Committee member) Patty Murray, Washington Democrat; Ranking Member Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican; House Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican; and Ranking Member Bob Filner, California Democrat.
The joint VA committee letter was short on specifics, since the four signers believe existing laws exempt all VA programs from sequestration — forced reductions without discussion or modification — but they did provide an eight-page summary of cost-saving acts that Congress considered in the past to reduce, modify or extend VA programs ranging from disability compensation to educational assistance
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