The U.S. Veterans Hospice Committee legislative team had a front-row seat at the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee hearing on the effects of the government shutdown, with testimony from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki earlier this month.
After the hearing, Legislative Director Sean Ferritor had the opportunity to personally thank the Secretary for his thoughtful testimony and exchange a few face-to-face remarks.
In his opening statement to the Committee, Sec. Shinseki flatly told the committee that he would be unable to issue benefit checks on November 1 if the federal government shutdown was not resolved by that date.
Sec. Shinseki also commented that a significant number of the VA’s furloughed employees are Veterans, so not only are they not receiving a paycheck, but now their disability benefits may be in jeopardy.
“Just because the federal government shutdown is over — until early in 2014, that is — and Congress is back at work, we can’t let the public or Congress think that the crisis facing our nation’s veterans is over,” said Legislative Director Sean Ferritor.
“By kicking the budget-and-debt-ceiling can down the road until early 2014 and averting an immediate crisis at the VA, all Congress did was to delay the day of atonement.”
“As far as homeless veterans with chronic and terminal illnesses are concerned, the federal government is always shut down,” said Executive Director Gerald Johnson. “Things getting back to normal isn’t the goal. Normal in America right now is nearly 63,000 homeless veterans and 28,000 of them with a chronic or terminal disease.
“The American people are calling on each and every Member of Congress to establish a ‘new normal’ so that our nation’s heroes receive the care due them from a grateful nation for what they have given to our country through their selfless service,” said Johnson.
--January 24, 2014