Not to long ago, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, wrote an editorial for Military.com's 'The Passdown' in which he explained his concern that the reality of sequestration – the congressionally mandated cuts that will automatically occur later this year due to the Joint Select Committee's failure to find $1.2 trillion dollars in deficit reductions – is about hit home for veterans.
The first line of Miller's article reads: "As it stands right now, sequestration of government programs is imminent." Hard to say that is anything less than definitive. Miller’s concern goes beyond the issue of how this will impact our national defense, Miller is worried that an ambiguity in the law could be used by the Office of Management and Budget to cut as much as two percent from the VA's Healthcare budget.
Chairman Miller wrote that the sequestration law was updated in 2010 with the intent to ensure VA's budget would be shielded. But the OMB seems to be ignoring the intent of the revision.
According to my sources both Chairman Miller and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, have contacted the OMB asking if they intended to touch the VA budget. Neither has received an answer; it is as if the OMB has gone darkened ship.
Rep. Miller has gone as far as to ask President Obama to exempt the VA from sequestration. The Congressman says that to date he has not been given a formal response other than a statement by an OMB spokeswoman, who stated that "…the administration will provide sequester implementation guidance later in the year."
The OMB leaves a lot of room for speculation. Perhaps keeping their plans close to the vest is the OMB's best means of leveraging Congress to find a solution, without actually coming out and threatening veteran services. After all fear works. Last year the government used the fear of a government shut-down with its associated late military pay checks and limited VA services to help reach yet another "Continuing Resolution."
BTW – I think we can look forward to that happening again later this year.
The truth is, military servicemembers, veterans, and their families are getting tired of being used as political pawns in a game of budgetary chicken, they want no part of it. Most feel it’s about time to take military pay and veteran’s services off the table for good and stop using fear tactics to achieve political goals.
To answer the headline question... Yes.