Nolan to President: Protect Veterans from Government Shutdown
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (MN-08) joined 25 of his colleagues today in sending a letter to the President requesting he deem certain U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees as “essential” in the event of a government shutdown.
The letter expressed concern over the effects of a possible government shutdown on VA employees, and on the thousands of veterans who depend on its care and services. If Congress does not agree on a continuing budget resolution by September 30th, all non-essential employees of the VA would be prevented from working.
Said Nolan, “A government shutdown would spell immediate harm for the men and women who have served our country, because it would further worsen the backlog in veterans’ benefits and disability claims.”
“Unfortunately, some House Republicans would rather hold our government hostage by insisting we pass a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare and continues the sequester,” Nolan added, “forgetting the lamentable fact that sequestration has already furloughed more than 600,000 civilian Defense employees nationwide, including 244 members of the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, MN.
“Shutting down the government when veterans already face months or even years of delays in claims processing is irresponsible and unnecessary, and is no way to treat the men and women we send into harm’s way.”
The full text of the letter is below:
September 19, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
With partisan politics threatening another government shutdown, we respectfully request that you prioritize the care and well-being of our nation’s brave veterans by deeming certain U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees as “essential.” The men and women who have served our nation so honorably do not deserve to have the quality benefits, programs, and facilities they've earned jeopardized by a potential government shutdown.
While we’re still hopeful a bipartisan consensus can be reached to avert a government shutdown, the impact of a shutdown on veterans with new or pending medical claims will likely mean additional delays in adjudication. This will, in turn, cause the massive claims backlog that we have pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce to again worsen, in addition to halting forward momentum on this issue. We can't allow this to happen.
We are also concerned that veterans seeking to further their education by taking advantage of the G.I. Bill will encounter delays that could cause them to miss enrollment deadlines. Again, an interruption affecting the personnel who are responsible for processing veteran’s eligibility for this hard-earned benefit can potentially have consequences on the long-term educational and economic success of our nation’s heroes, many of whom are supporting families while also working towards their degree.
In addition to benefits delays, public outreach programs and services that are vital resources for our veterans may also be suspended. Some of these services, like the National Center for PTSD, are potentially lifesaving resources for those who have served in combat. After risking their lives for their country, those with both external and internal injuries shouldn’t suffer interruption of the quality care our nation has pledged to give them because some in Congress have opted to put politics before people.
Mr. President, as we continue to work toward a responsible solution that will enable our government to be funded beyond the end of this month, we ask that you’ll consider our request. Deeming certain U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees as “essential” will enable our nation to keep our promises to veteran constituents by protecting their services and giving them the certainty they deserve in spite of a potential government shutdown.