UPDATE: What Sequestration and the Fiscal Cliff Could Mean to Veterans
Posted by Christina Roof on March 1
UPDATE 3/1/13: In case you missed it, today “Sequestration” was officially put into place. The March 1st deadline is a direct result of the Budget control Act of 2011 and the failure of last year’s “Super Committee.” DoD’s budget will sustain approximately 52% of the total cuts. DoD must cut $47 billion before Sept. 30, 2013. This will include cuts to:
-Community and Family Service Programs; Child and Youth programs and support services for military children; programs that provide counseling to families and servicemembers dealing with a mental health issue/s; Wounded Warrior
-Support services and programs (these are the programs that assist our nation's most severely injured servicemembers and their families); legal and military justice support services (these programs do everything from victim advocacy to helping with disability claims and everything in between)
-The Army has instructed commanders to seek a 30 percent reduction in "Operations Support," which includes Army base services, programs and day to day operations needed to make sure the base runs smoothly.
Basically, these are cuts to people’s quality of life. These are cuts to our nation’s safety and the safety of the men and women who selflessly protect it.
If Congress fails to come up with an alternative to sequestration and a solution to the “fiscal cliff,” the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will become collateral damage. The impacts could prove to be grave to an already vulnerable population of post-9/11 veterans and their families.
By now, you probably already know that sequestration is a series of cuts to the federal budget scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2013, while the “fiscal cliff” describes a series of tax cuts scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2012.
Both Congress and the White House have reassured the VA that its budget is safe. However, non-VA programs that benefit veterans may still see reductions in the name of “balancing our nation’s budget.”
First, housing programs and programs combating veteran homelessness will surely be negatively impacted. As more service members have transitioned back into the civilian world, we’ve seen an increase in the number of homeless veterans. A 2005 Government Accountability Office study found that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental assistance programs “reached an estimated 250,000 low-income veteran households.” Cuts to public housing, housing vouchers and project-based programs could dramatically affect veterans.
Helping low-income veterans and their families does not happen in a vacuum. While the VA’s programs budget may be “off limits” for spending cuts, cuts at HUD, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security will all have negative effects on veterans. These agencies work on issues such as preventing and addressing homelessness. Veterans rely on these federal and state programs that are on the budgetary chopping block.
Veterans could also lose extended unemployment benefits. For now, approximately 2.1 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months receive unemployment benefits. This will end on Dec. 29, 2012, unless Congress acts fast. With unemployment rates among post-9/11 veterans higher than the national average, this sudden termination of financial assistance could be devastating to our newest generation of veterans and their families.
The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) could also be hit by sequestration. TAP works to prepare service members as they transition back into civilian life. In 2012, this program became mandatory for all service members separating from the military, but that progress could be completely lost if the program’s funding is cut.
A final example: More than one third of IAVA’s Member Veterans are employed by the federal and state government. The federal government is one of the nation’s largest employers of veterans. So, if Congress fails to steer our country away from the “fiscal cliff” and sequestration, countless numbers of veterans may find themselves furloughed, or even worse, unemployed.
The fact of the matter is simple: Congressional leaders and the White House must set aside their differences and come to an immediate agreement to avoid sending our nation over the “fiscal cliff.” We cannot allow our country’s budget to be balanced on the back of our veterans, servicemembers and their families. Haven’t they already sacrificed enough?
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