WASHINGTON (WAVY) – Claims and counterclaims are flying about spending cuts and veterans’ programs as the deadline approaches for the government to stay out of default. The House of Representatives passed HB 2811 last week, sending it on to the Senate and President Biden.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said the spending proposal would cut more than 80,000 department jobs and 30 million medical appointments, and increase the backlog on disability claims.
The Department of Labor said job assistance for veterans would suffer, and the Department of Justice said veterans making claims would bog down under the PACT Act involving Agent Orange, burn pits and other combat hazards.
Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans (Va.-02) said these administration claims have no basis.
“Absolutely none of these things are written in the bill,” Kiggans said in a Wednesday morning interview. “If you go back and read it, not a single one. And using our veterans as political pawns just to get an agenda passed is wrong.”
After this story aired Wednesday evening, the White House responded to 10 On Your Side with a statement that said in part “nearly every single GOP House member went on record backing a far right proposal to single-handedly trigger an economic meltdown unless they are allowed to hollow out the Department of Veterans Affairs”.
Any talk of cuts to veterans benefits concerns Jim Barry, one of Kiggans’ constituents who lives in the Kempsville section of Virginia Beach. The former Army radar operator said veterans can’t afford any reductions.
“The access to the healthcare concerns me the most,” Barry said. “A lot of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are getting older and they’re in their upper 30s and 40s now.”
Kiggans said what passed in the House last week isn’t the last word.
“It’s literally a tool that we are using to get President Biden to now come to the negotiating table,” Kiggans said. “It’s his responsibility to sit down at the table with Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy and come to a compromise.”
Said Barry: “I have friends that are retired from the Navy and the Army that use the VA extensively. My wife was a Navy widow before we were married. She used the VA extensively. She’s a big fan of the VA.”
Kiggans even went beyond responding to the administration’s specific claims and said veterans’ programs will not be cut in any way.
“I’m the granddaughter of a veteran and I’m the daughter of a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, I’m a veteran and I’m the mother of future veterans,” said the former Navy helicopter pilot. “Republicans have said time and time again that (spending cuts) will not come from veterans’ benefits, it will not come from Social Security and Medicare, and it will not come from defense spending.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government could be in default, that is, no longer being able to pay obligations on its debt, as early as June 1 if a spending plan isn’t reached.