The new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned Wednesday that sequestration could adversely affect programs for veterans, despite an exemption in the law for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The VA itself is protected from sequestration, but other programs that help veterans could be affected,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters.
Sanders mentioned as examples a Department of Labor program to provide job training to veterans and Housing and Urban Development vouchers that are used to house homeless veterans.
“Congress was right to protect the VA, but veterans will still be impacted,” Sanders said.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki raised similar concerns at a joint appearance last month, with Panetta warning that sequestration could have “a serious impact” on programs supporting troops leaving military service.
Sanders also repeated an earlier warning that efforts to solve the budget deficit crisis by changing the way annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated would cut disability benefits for disabled veterans. ”It would hit disabled vets,” he said.
Sanders is replacing Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), who is now chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Federal agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency to the federal courts are now engaged in detailed planning for the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. If Congress does not reverse the cuts by March 1 — and it’s looking more and more likely that it won’t — agencies will need to shave $85 billion in spending over the rest of the fiscal year.