Last night, Congress and the president reached a deal to re-open the government. On Thursday, government workers went back to work, ending a 16-day government shutdown that devastated millions of veterans and their families.
All programs supporting veterans, service members, their families and survivors should be re-opened. The VA said on Thursday that it will be able to make disability, education, and other benefit payments to approximately 5 million veterans, survivors, and their families on November 1 as scheduled. The community still may face some lingering delays in programs and services while workers settle back into their positions.
Veterans should never again be negatively impacted by the Congressional gridlock that caused the government shutdown. Congress should swiftly pass the Putting Veterans Funding First Act that would fully fund the VA one year in advance. This would not only allow veterans' benefits and many programs to be protected from future government shutdowns but it would also give the VA opportunities to plan the long-term investments to modernize the department.
Leaders in Washington should remember the impact on the military community beyond just the Department of Veterans Affairs. Over the last 16 days, the country's military readiness has been in jeopardy. Many National Guard and Reservists saw trainings cancelled. Programs for military families and survivors were shuttered. Even death benefits for families of the fallen were suspended. These devastating effects spurred more than 30 of the leading military and veterans organization to join together on October 15 to call for an end to the government shutdown.
Never again should political leaders use the veterans and military community as pawns in their political games. No one should forget how the government hurt veterans, servicemembers, their families and survivors: please revisit our FAQ on the government shutdown. Our community cannot face this again in January.