By Terry Howell
On September 20, 2012 the Military Advantage Blog featured a live Q&A event with the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee on the topic of sequestration.
The following is a collection of the 10 most common questions our members asked:
QUESTION: The WH sequestration report says that "military personnel accounts" will be exempt from any sequestration cuts. Does this cover all personnel related programs like tuition assistance, housing, and family support programs?
ANSWER: Military Pay (including PCS and Subsistence) is exempt under the President's sequestration exemption. Programs such as TRICARE, tuition assistance and family support programs are not exempt and do fall under sequestration.
QUESTION: There has been quite a bit of back and forth about the VA's exemption from sequestration. Do you foresee any administrative cuts that could affect veterans' benefits claims processing.
ANSWER: After a year of prodding we finally received some clarity from the Administration last week. All VA programs are exempt, to include administrative expenses.
QUESTION: How will sequestration impact veterans disability and health care the next ten years?
ANSWER: There will be no impact on VA health care in terms of cuts to its appropriation, although with sequestration affecting TRICARE for many of our retirees there is some concern that the VA system could be overwhelmed from those who would turn to VA for care. The bottom line is that there could be unforeseen effects from a DoD sequester.
QUESTION: Has Congress received any information about how tuition assistance may be affected by sequestration, or budget trimming in general?
ANSWER: We have not received a program breakdown of how sequestration will be applied from the Department of Defense. The reductions we received just show a 9.4% reduction for all operation and maintenance (O&M) funds.
QUESTION: What has been done to avoid sequestration?
ANSWER: The House has passed 5 bills to stop sequestration of DoD, including H Con Res. 112: Official House Republican Budget for FY2013; H.R. 5652: Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012; H.R. 6365: National Security and Job Protection Act of 2012; H.R. 5872: Sequestration Transparency Act (now law).
[Editors Note] Bill(s) Status as follows:
H Con Res. 112 Official House Republican Budget for FY2013 -- Status: Motion to proceed to consideration of measure rejected in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 41 -- 58.
H.R. 5652 Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 -- Status: Read the second time. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders.
H.R. 6365: National Security and Job Protection Act of 2012 -- Status: Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Budget.
H.R. 5872: Sequestration Transparency Act -- Status: Became Public Law No: 112-155.
QUESTION: If sequestration happens, how soon will these cuts happen? On Jan. 2, or will it take time to actually implement them? Do you know what the timeline looks like?
ANSWER: The law provides a timeline to OMB to allocate the reductions under sequestration, which begins January 2. Our concern is the strategic implications of how these reductions would be applied.
QUESTION: Since it appears the sequestration will not directly impact veterans programs. What is the next big issue veterans should be concerned about?
ANSWER: Some veterans programs still may be affected by sequester, and I am working to ensure veterans aren't impacted. As for issues facing our veterans right now, my top concerns are the growing disability claims backlog, VA's mental health care crisis, and opportunities for veterans to find employment.
QUESTION: If sequestration takes affect Jan 2 do you think the private sector will see the mass job loss as some large defense contractor are forecasting?
ANSWER: Yes. Reductions in contracts have already begun to take place due to the specter of impending sequestration. Just the other day Boeing announced the layoff of almost 600 employees.
QUESTION: How do you see sequestration affecting the National Guard?
ANSWER: All services and service components will be reduced by the same percentage, excluding military pay. The reduction to the guard and reserve will mirror the reductions to the active force, regardless of strategy.
QUESTION: What can vets and servicemembers do to help head off sequestration?
ANSWER: Contacting your representative and senator would be the best option to express your concerns about sequestration. Engaging in a dialogue, like you are doing today, is very important and I appreciate hearing your concerns. Thank you for staying engaged on this issue and please visit the House Armed Services Committee website for more specific facts and information on sequestration.
To learn more about the pending budget issues and sequestration, you can contact the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs anytime. To contact the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, please click here. To "like" the Committee on Facebook, click here, or "follow" them on Twitter to keep up with the latest news for veterans.