Hundreds of veterans joined DAV in a powerful rally on Capitol Hill Feb. 25 as part of the daylong Operation: Keep the Promise. At the same time, supporters from around the nation placed more than 10,000 calls and emails to their U.S. Senators and Representatives and our message reached over 11.5 million people through Facebook and Twitter, urging Congress to pass advance appropriations for all veterans benefits, programs and services.
The goal of Operation: Keep the Promise was to call upon Congress to enact the Putting Veterans Funding First Act (H.R. 813, S. 932), which would shield the Department of Veterans Affairs from Washington’s near perpetual budget gridlock.
Now that the smoke has cleared, we still have work to do to get this legislation up for a vote and passed. In Washington, budget delays and continuing resolutions have become an annual ritual, often threatening or directly impacting our veterans and their families.
“Imagine trying to run a large business or organization without knowing what level of funding you will receive each year or when it will arrive,” said DAV National Commander Joseph W. Johnston. “This is the unfortunate challenge VA officials have faced 22 out of the past 25 years when Congress has failed to pass a budget on time.”
During last October’s government shutdown, critical services for veterans were delayed, disrupted and, in some instances, suspended, creating hardship and needless worry to America’s wounded heroes and their families.
Work stopped on more than 250,000 veterans disability claims awaiting appeals, burials at national cemeteries were scaled back and vital medical and prosthetic research projects were threatened with suspension.
Had the shutdown continued for even a few more days, even mandatory obligations of the government, including disability compensation and pension payments to veterans and their survivors, would have stopped. More than four million wounded, injured, ill or poor veterans rely on these payments – for some, their primary or only source of income.
DAV must now continue the momentum of Operation: Keep the Promise, to make sure this is not a one-time rallying cry, but rather a sustained campaign to enact advance appropriations for all veterans benefits, programs and services.
Passage of the Putting Veterans Funding First Act would enable the VA to plan for key investments in information technology, claims processing and construction projects, and give Congress greater oversight on multi-year funding proposals – which is what veterans and their families need and deserve.
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