WASHINGTON, DC -- Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, has reacted to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announcement that over 7,000 Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees will be put into furlough status and that regional VBA offices will be closed. In addition, 2,754 Office of Information Technology employees will be furloughed due to the exhaustion of FY 2013 carry over funding. Despite these furloughs, claims processing and payments are expected to continue through late October.
"This announcement appears consistent with VA's contingency plans, although it provides details and drives home the point that this shutdown has serious consequences," said Michaud. "While payments will continue to be issued to veterans, Congress must act soon to prevent any future delays. Whether it's our national parks, VA programs, or Social Security disability assistance, this shutdown is real and it's impacting millions of American families, communities, and businesses. Washington needs to get its act together and compromise to end this shutdown and live up to our nation's obligations. We must get past this manufactured crisis so that we can move forward with addressing the long-term economic and fiscal challenges that still face our country."
At 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the impact of a government shutdown on VA benefits and services. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will be the only witness.
Michaud voted to pass a bipartisan VA spending bill in the House earlier this year, and he opposed a Republican sponsored bill passed last week that would have shortchanged the VA by over $6 billion. He also co-signed a letter with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the chairman of the committee, calling on Speaker John Boehner to bring H.R. 813 to the House floor for a vote. Miller and Michaud introduced H.R. 813, which requires Congress to fully fund the VA's discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule, ensuring that VA services will have timely and predictable funding and be protected from future congressional budget battles. Currently, only VA's medical accounts receive advanced appropriations.