Late Breaking News
VA Spared from Automatic Budget Cuts - Sequestration Still Threatens DoD
By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON — While Congress has yet to agree on a way forward to avoid a series of automatic federal budget cuts slated to go into effect in 2013, the Obama administration has made it clear that VA medical programs would not be slashed as a result of those cuts.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta addresses sequestration at a press briefing on defense issues at the Pentagon in April. (DOD photo)
In response to inquiries about the effect of the massive budget cuts scheduled to take effect automatically as a result of sequestration, the Office of Management and Budget told the GAO in a recent letter that “the conclusion that we have reached is that all programs administered by the VA, including veterans’ medical care, are exempt.”
The letter formally cleared the air over whether veterans’ medical care would be adversely affected by sequestration, an issue raised by some members of Congress.
“I am pleased this legal ambiguity has been cleared up. Our veterans deserve the peace of mind it helps to provide,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a written statement.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-FL, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, called the response “long overdue.” He said in a statement that, to ensure VA is fully exempt from sequestration, he would like to see passage of a bill he introduced, the Protect VA Healthcare Act of 2012, which would legally exempt veterans’ benefits from similar cuts in the future.
“This decision, nine months in coming and after numerous congressional inquiries and my own letter to the president in January, is long overdue,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, this move demonstrates the administration’s penchant for political brinksmanship, even when it concerns those who have served this nation with honor.”