Yesterday the Office of Management and Budget released a letter responding to a request for their official view on whether or not VA healthcare programs would be exempt from the impact of the looming sequestration.
[Sequestration refers to the automatic $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts in defense and nondefense discretionary spending that will go into effect as a result of the Budget Control Act, passed in August of 2011. Sequestration is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.]
OMB’s letter is a difficult read, but if you wade through it, you will find OMB's response. “...the conclusion we [OMB] have reached is that ALL [emphasis added] programs administered by the VA, including Veterans’ Medical Care program exempt from sequestration…”
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, who has been pushing OMB for a determination since late last summer, responded to OMB's letter saying, “This decision, nine months in coming and after numerous Congressional inquiries and my own letter to the President in January, is long overdue.”
While this is welcome news to most vets, Rep. Miller pointed out that some of the language in the OMB letter appears to "leave the door open" to other ways to sequester the VA's budget.
Miller is referring to a parenthetical portion of the OMB’s conclusion in which the Deputy General Counsel wrote that the OMB's response does not address other potential sequester questions under previous budget laws like the Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 and the Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010. (Read the full OMB Letter)
Miller stated that leaving the door open to other legal avenues to sequester VA, is not acceptable. Adding that he is committed passing Protect VA Healthcare Act of 2012 (H.R. 3895) to “ensure America’s veterans receive the benefits they have rightfully earned today, and in the future.”