President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Republican Lawmakers Thursday. Pressure is mounting on both sides to end the government shutdown, which on Thursday, hits its 10th day. Wednesday, that pressure came in the form of a warning from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He says if the shutdown continues, the VA won't be able to make benefits payments to veterans next month. Geoff Bennett has more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki reminded the House committee members that actions have consequences and that the consequences of the government shutdown are hitting veterans hard.
"Today, we’re in the 13th year of the war in Afghanistan, providing care and benefits to veterans of that war and the war in Iraq, as well. Members of this latest generation of veterans are enrolling in VA at a higher rate than ever before," said General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
That high enrollment contributed to a backlog of veterans’ disability and pension claims, something the VA has been working to fix. But Shinseki said that the worker furloughs connected to the shutdown have stalled their progress.
Shinseki said, “We lost ground we fought hard to take. Roughly 1,400 veterans a day are now not receiving decisions on their disability claims."
Shinseki also told committee members that if the shutdown continues into late October, the VA won’t have enough money to make benefits payments to millions of veterans and eligible family members next month.
"Not only do we have a large number of beneficiaries who are looking for those checks, I have veterans myself who I employ, a third, over 100,000 veterans. A number of them are going to be subject to furlough and so if they are furloughed and they are also recipients of disability checks, their resources go to zero and then I have the responsibility of trying to keep them from becoming homeless,” said Shinseki.
Though Republicans and Democrats are unable to agree on a deal to fund the government, both sides agree that veterans deserve better. And Republicans are quick to point to their efforts to fund the Veterans Administration, although it’s through a piecemeal strategy that Democrats reject.
“Republicans, we’ve taken care of the veterans. We’ve passed legislation to keep the memorials open, to fund VA benefits and so forth. Again, Harry Reid will not take it up. So the veterans are being affected from the lack of leadership over in the Senate from Harry Reid,” said Texas Representative Roger Williams.
“The House of Representatives ought to be having a vote on a simple, straightforward funding resolution that enables all of our veterans to be paid what they are owed, for their claims to be processed in a timely way," said Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.
But there's still no sign of a compromise.