In 1985, during a previous budget crisis, the Gramm-Rudman law set out to hold accountable Congress and the administration to the ramifications of not keeping our budget in check. The original language exempted some, but not all, VA programs and allowed up to a 2% cut in VA medical care. In 2010, the law was updated to exempt from sequester “[a]ll programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.” However, in a separate section, language permitting a 2% cut to VA medical care was retained. Therein lies the conflict.
I have been clear since last August when the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed that VA should not be subject to sequestration. That was not the intent of Congress today, nor in 2010. Due to the nature of the conflict in the law, the decision to resolve this anomaly lies with the White House Office of Management and Budget. Yet, despite repeated attempts to get a straightforward answer from the Obama administration – from the President himself to the White House Office of Management and Budget to VA – they are apparently unwilling to make what I would call an easy decision in favor of our veterans.
VA’s legal team reached a conclusion on this months ago, which they have not been allowed to share, while lawyers with GAO (Government Accountability Office) and CRS (Congressional Research Service) have provided informal opinions to me in a matter of days. I have to ask then, what is the motive of the administration in withholding a decision? Why let our veterans twist in the wind?
Because the president has not acted, I had no alternative but to introduce the Protect VA Healthcare Act of 2012 (H.R. 3895). The bill is all of a page and a half in length and will rectify this issue once and for all. I am pleased that my bill was immediately endorsed by The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
To all of my House colleagues, if you would like to co-sponsor the bill, please contact the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. If the president will not lead on this issue, we must. We should all step forward and do what is right and necessary to protect our veterans as they have protected us without hesitation the past 236 years.
Keeping our promise to our veterans, on both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, should not be this hard.
Rep. Miller (R-Fla.) is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.