Open Letter from BVA’s Executive Director Regarding the Government Shutdown

 

October 10, 2013

The Honorable President Barack Obama

United States Senate
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

As Executive Director of the Blinded Veterans Association BVA and on behalf of our entire membership, I am writing to express our rising outrage over the partisan politics preventing the federal government from fulfilling many basic obligations owed its citizenry, including sacred obligations to the men and women who have served and are serving to defend our nation.

The failure by all parties to reach agreement on Fiscal Year 2014 funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DOD), and other federal agencies that directly or indirectly support veterans, and to end the government shutdown, is increasingly causing serious harm to our nation’s heroes. As the shutdown continues, this is a new low point and a violation of the trust we place in our elected officials to ensure that our veterans have the benefits and services promised them. Sadly, the damage to our veterans will continue to get worse until all of you, together with a sufficient majority of the House and Senate, reach agreement to end this crisis.

If this stalemate continues for a couple more weeks, even mandatory obligations of the federal government, such as disability compensation and pension paid to veterans and their survivors, will be suspended. More than four million wounded, injured, ill, blinded, and disabled poor veterans who rely on these payments (for some it is their primary or only source of income) will be unable to pay their bills. It is simply unacceptable that there is even the threat of default on these payments to our nation’s heroes.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker and Mr. Majority Leader, the time for posturing and playing politics with veterans must come to an end. We call on all of you to reach agreement and expeditiously enact full Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations for all federal programs, services, and benefits that directly or indirectly support America’s heroes, especially those wounded, injured, and ill due to their service. Many of our blinded veterans who are non-service connected depend entirely upon these small VA pensions and live below the poverty level already. Many who are service connected will be unable to pay monthly bills and could fall into the risk of losing their homes, failing to pay utility bills, or even being unable to buy food.

In addition, we call on you to enact legislation, H.R. 813, which extends advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory funding so that this sorry spectacle is never repeated.  There is already advance appropriations legislation pending in both the House and Senate and, with your support, it could be quickly amended and enacted to prevent this harm from recurring in the future.

Nearly 150 years ago, during perhaps the most challenging time of crisis our nation has ever faced, President Abraham Lincoln carefully and eloquently laid out the most sacred obligation of our nation: “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” We now call on all of you to live up to those words.

Sincerely,

Al Avina, Executive Director