Update: The Debt Deal's Impact for Troops, Veterans and Military Families
Posted by Jonathan Schleifer on August 3
Update 8/4 10:00 AM On Tuesday afternoon, the President signed into law a bipartisan deal to address the deficit and avert a default; however, the Pentagon could face $900 billion in cuts over the next 10 years as part of the agreement. IAVA will continue to track in the coming days on the impact these cuts might have for service members and military families. Follow IAVA on Facebook or Twitter for updates or join the conversation inside Community of Veterans to get questions answered by IAVA staff.
Under the new debt deal, reports are surfacing that funding for veterans health care and the Post-9/11 GI Bill might be impacted by negotiations. IAVA is tracking on the situation in DC- stay tuned for updates.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to pass a bipartisan deal to address the deficit by a vote of 74-26.
Late Monday, the House voted to pass a bipartisan deal to address the deficit and avert default by 269-161. The Senate is scheduled to put the bill up for a vote at Noon Tuesday.
Following a meeting at the White House, officials have assured veterans that veterans' benefits will be exempt from spending cuts in the new debt.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has issued a message to all Defense Department personnel on the debt-ceiling debate, which threatens the government’s ability to write paychecks to troops, by reminding the entire Defense Department to show up for duty on Monday. Read his statement.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen stated over the weekend that August 15th would be the first payday jeopardized if the United States defaults. The last assured payday would be Monday, August 1st.
Last Tuesday, IAVA joined fellow Veterans Service Organizations for a briefing by White House officials on the potential impact of debt default for veterans and their families. The meeting was a critical opportunity for IAVA to communicate the concerns of our nearly 100,000 Member Veterans and to hear what the Administration is working on amid the debt talks. However, we did not receive much new information about the situation. There was no specificity offered about how default will impact military pay, benefits, disability payments, retirement checks and more. We did not receive any information that will make our members any less concerned then they were before the meeting at the White House.
Currently, no legislation has been introduced that would direct the U.S. Treasury to fulfill government obligations to veterans in the case of a funding gap. Numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced to prioritize payments to military and active-duty reservists when a funding gap arises. The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011 [H.R. 1297/S. 724] introduced by Representative Gohmert and Senator Hutchison currently has the most cosponsors in Congress at 201 and 81 in the House and Senate respectively. This legislation was originally introduced to ensure that service members get paid during a government shutdown. It would apply to military pay, however, not to veterans’ benefits.
If the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2, 2011 there is a chance that the Treasury will send its last checks to veterans on August 1st. This lack of certainty leaves IAVA Member Veterans and veterans of every generation uncertain about their education, their health care and their benefits. Our veterans and their families have already sacrificed enough for our country, and they must not be used as a political football now by leaders in Washington. IAVA calls on Congress and the White House to resolve this situation and avoid any disruption in benefit payments to veterans who rely on them. After ten years of war, the President and Congress need to uphold their contract with our brave men and women who have served our country. America shouldn’t cut the deficit on the backs our nation’s vets and military families who have already given so much.
Jonathan Schleifer serves as IAVA's Policy Director in Washington, D.C. where he oversees IAVA's legislative agenda and strategy. He earned his Master's of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
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