Congresswoman Duckworth Speaks in Support of Veterans and Reopening the Government

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 3, 2013.  On Thursday, October 3, 2013, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) spoke out against $6.2 billion in cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs budget . Cuts would include programs like medical and prosthetic research for wounded Veterans, national Veterans cemeteries, the Veterans appeals board and resources to reduce the claims backlog. She offered a Motion to Recommit that would have brought the Senate passed Continuing Resolution up for a vote and have reopened the entire federal government.

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Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the chairman has resigned himself to keeping government shutdown for 30 days so that the VA will run out of money. The way to ensure that the VA doesn’t run out of money in 30 days is to pass a clean CR to reopen all of government.

I spent every moment since waking up in my hospital bed at Walter Reed defending our military and serving our Veterans. I know when they are being exploited. The bill we are debating isn’t a serious or respectful attempt to support our nation’s heroes. It will not help Veterans. In fact, it does just the opposite.

It cuts more than $6 billion dollars in funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs from the same bill that my colleagues and I passed 421-4 earlier this year.

I cannot support this bill because it pits one Veteran against another. It would continue paying out pension benefits at the cost of cutting medical and prosthetic research for wounded Veterans. It would give Veterans in the VA their healthcare and needed mental health services, which I applaud, but it leaves 800,000 of their brothers and sisters – my brothers and sisters – caught in the backlog where they would have to wait even longer to get a decision on their benefits.

It would allow Soldiers with PTSD to access the Veterans Crisis line, but at the expense of not laying our heroes to rest in our National Cemeteries on a timely basis.

It would allow our Veterans to be counseled for Military Sexual Trauma, but not quickly review their appeals that they submit to get compensation they so rightfully deserve for that trauma.

This is unacceptable. It is shameful we are even considering responding to our Veterans’ service to our nation with a funding cut at a time when the need for their has never been greater. And we don’t fund government by pitting one group against another.

A piecemeal approach bill to fund some Veterans could still allow TRICARE to run out of funds for prescription medication for our military and retirees. We are not a nation that would ask Veterans to accept funding at the expense of their children who are in Head Start.

A piecemeal approach bill tells our thousands of military and Veterans families who rely on food stamps that we will pay their salaries when they go to war but we won’t feed their children.

And the idea that funding the VA will protect their benefits from the effects of this shut down is simply not true. Our Veterans are also small business owners in Elgin, Illinois, they are students in Addison, they are homeowners in Hanover Park, and many of them continue to serve their country as government employees.

Funding just part of VA will not help the Veterans who are waiting on loans from the Small Business Administration. So let’s put our politics aside and stop using our Veterans as pawns. This approach will not meet the full range of desperately needed Veterans services.  It is no way to fund the government.

Our Veterans didn’t leave their comrades behind on the field of battle. Shame on us – shame on the majority – for leaving them and the nation to defend it without a government.

Our nation is better than this.  We are better than this.  I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this Motion to Recommit. And please allow us to bring up the clean Senate-Passed Continuing Resolution that has the additional $6 billion of funding for our heroes and Veterans. Let’s reopen the government so we can get back to the work of serving our nation.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.