Enough is enough, America!! While it is inexcusable to let any citizen suffer because of a political impasse, it is unconscionable to punish our war veterans, to cynically use them as pawns in an obscene political chess match. But that's precisely what we're doing. Right now. Shame on us. All of us.
Tomorrow morning, a group of Senators including Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), will hold a news conference at which they promise to highlight in some detail the damaging impact the government shutdown is having on veterans.
But this well-meaning presser will not likely result in any meaningful action. I don't think any of these lawmakers have any rabbits to pull out of their Congressional top hats.
Meanwhile, anxiety is growing nationwide. Countless sources of mine in the veteran community are asking me today what the hell is going on. No one is sure just where all of this is headed, but what we do know is that if this absurd legislative soap opera continues, America's veterans will lose many of their VA benefits as soon as three weeks from now.
A statement released today from VA’s media office read the following:
“Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted.”
We also know that the Veterans Benefits Administration has furloughed 7,000 of its workers, which is about one-third of its staff. As a result, VBA’s regional offices across the country are closed as of this morning.
The shutdown also threatens to reverse the efforts VA has finally made in recent months to shrink the enormous backlog of unprocessed claims.
And that's just scratching the surface. All of this must stop. I'm sure most Americans, whatever your political beliefs, agree that our veterans are heroes and must not be punished for political gain. They've already sacrificed enough.