The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives
H-232 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6501
The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
S-221 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-7020
Dear President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Majority Leader Reid:
As National Commander of DAV and on behalf of our 1.2 million members, I am writing to express our rising outrage over the partisan politics preventing the federal government from fulfilling many basic obligations owed its citizenry, including sacred obligations to the men and women who have served and are serving to defend our nation.
The failure by all parties to reach agreement on fiscal year 2014 funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal agencies that directly or indirectly support veterans, and the effects of the government shutdown, are increasingly causing serious harm to our nation’s heroes. The recent news about DOD’s apparent inability to provide mandatory death gratuities to the families of fallen Marines, or to even fly them to Dover Air Force Base for arrival ceremonies while the government shutdown continues, is a new low point and a violation of the trust we place in our elected officials. Sadly, the damage to our veterans will continue to get worse until all of you, together with a sufficient majority of the House and Senate, reach agreement to end this crisis.
Unless you put aside partisan politics for the good of the nation, the harm to our veterans and service members will get worse. If this stalemate continues for a couple more weeks, even mandatory obligations of the federal government, such as disability compensation and pension paid to veterans and their survivors, will be suspended. More than four million wounded, injured, ill and poor veterans rely on these payments; for some it is their primary or only source of income. It is simply unacceptable that there is even the threat of default on these payments.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker and Mr. Majority Leader, the time for posturing and playing politics with veterans must come to an end. We call on all of you to reach agreement and expeditiously enact full fiscal year 2014 appropriations for all federal programs, services and benefits that directly or indirectly support America’s heroes, especially those wounded, injured and ill due to their service.
In addition, we call on you to enact legislation that extends advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory funding so that this sorry spectacle is never repeated. There is already advance appropriations legislation pending in both the House and Senate, and with your support, it could be quickly amended and enacted to prevent this harm from recurring in the future.
Almost 150 years ago, during perhaps the most challenging time of crisis our nation has ever faced, President Abraham Lincoln carefully and eloquently laid out the most sacred obligation of our nation: “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” We now call on all of you to live up to those words.
JOSEPH W. JOHNSTON
All Members of the United States Senate
All Members of the United States House of Representatives
Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki