In 2009, our grassroots efforts, and those of many other organizations, were instrumental in getting legislation enacted to provide advance funding for veterans medical care. Thanks to the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, VA hospitals and clinics were able to provide uninterrupted care to millions of wounded, injured and ill veterans during last year’s partial government shutdown. Meanwhile, other critical services for veterans were delayed, disrupted or suspended.
In fact, if the budget stalemate had continued for another couple of weeks, even mandatory obligations of the federal government, such as disability compensation and pension payments to veterans and their survivors, would have been halted. More than 4 million wounded, injured, ill and poor veterans rely on those payments, which for some are their primary or only source of income.
It is simply unacceptable that there was even the threat of a default on those payments because Congress was in partisan gridlock over unrelated matters. That’s why National Commander Joseph W. Johnston urged Departments and Chapters to hold town hall meetings and rallies calling on lawmakers to end the shutdown. And once the shutdown ended, he again issued a call to action in support of extending advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory programs. A number of Departments and Chapters have held or scheduled rallies to tell their elected officials it is time to change how Washington pays for veterans programs, by putting veterans funding first.
Meanwhile, DAV has been joined by dozens of other veterans’ and military organizations in delivering that message directly to Congress and the White House. We are urging Congress to pass, and the President to sign, legislation that would extend advance appropriations to all remaining VA programs and services. That legislation is the Putting Veterans Funding First Act (S. 932, H.R. 813). It has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, including the leadership of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees.
The success of this latest effort—as it was with the advance funding for VA medical care—will require an all-out grassroots campaign. While town hall meetings and rallies are integral parts of our strategy, the tried-and-true tactics are personal contacts, phone calls and emails to your Senators and Representatives. We need to urge them to extend the same one-year advance appropriations cycle, currently used for VA’s three medical care accounts, to include all discretionary and mandatory programs and services.
The message we want to send to Congress and the President is that extending advance appropriations would shield all veterans programs from unrelated political and partisan budget disputes. That way, the VA can continue to deliver all the benefits and services that our wounded, injured and ill veterans have earned. So, I urge you to get involved in this crucial effort and encourage others you may know to join DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network).