White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Wednesday the sequestration would affect the Veterans Affairs budget:
ED HENRY: (The) question is: When you have the Veterans’ Affairs secretary saying there will be some cuts to Veterans Affairs Department, and the president saying your veterans’ benefits won’t be affected, how do you know that for sure?
JAY CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the secretary’s comments that, if the sequester were to come about and take effect, that it would — again, I’m just citing what Sec. Shinseki said — that the impact would be on administrative costs in his agency. But let’s just back up and be clear: The whole point of the sequester was to create a forcing mechanism to get cuts.
Despite the president’s assurances at a speech this week before the VFW, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Wednesday the VA could face some budget cuts as a result of the sequester, in a joint hearing of the House Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees.
The cuts to the VA’s budget would be contained to administrative costs, according to Shinseki.
“I don’t have a definition of administration costs right now,” Shinseki said at the hearing.
Some committee members had questions about what would entail, according to Politico:
The VA is the rare government agency not facing massive budget cuts this year. And Shinseki said he hoped to avoid them altogether.
“President (Barack) Obama publicly said Monday at the VFW Convention that VA is exempt from sequestration, yet the secretary conceded today that VA would face cuts early next year if a sequester takes place,” stated Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). “Since last August, I have been asking this question and until today, I have received nothing but double speak. I am now demanding that VA and the president define ‘administrative costs.’”
“Does this mean closing veterans’ hospitals, fewer claims processors to help veterans with their disability compensation, longer wait times for veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war or those having to bury a loved one, not to mention the possible impact on homeless veterans’ programs and research to care for our wounded warriors?” Miller asked. “Congress, and more important, our veterans, deserve an honest, straight-forward answer.”