— by Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary–Veterans Affairs
You now know that budget sequestration is in effect, and VA has been exempted from it. Sequestration will bring difficult cuts to the budgets of many other departments and agencies of the federal government. This exemption acknowledges the Nation’s obligation to provide care and benefits to our veterans who earned them, their eligible family members, and our survivors. Even in a time of difficult economic choices, this obligation to veterans must endure. You are crucial to achieving that mission.
We, as a department, have always focused on fulfilling these obligations, while also serving as good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We will not compromise the safety, security, or well-being of veterans or our employees, but we must scrutinize every event, initiative, program, and proposal to assure that each is absolutely essential and will produce positive, measurable returns to the accomplishment of our mission.
In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama discussed the need to rebuild a competitive middle class in this country and the importance of education, health care, and employment opportunities to doing so. The veterans of World War II saved the world from oppression, returned home, used the original GI Bill to gain an education, bought homes, started businesses, became entrepreneurs, business leaders, doctors, scientists, and politicians and thereby earned for our country 60 years of sustained global leadership, prosperity, and security. In that same way, today’s veterans are fully capable of helping grow our middle class, and providing a powerful return on the country’s investments in them. Veterans have done it before; they will do it again.
As we look to the future, our mission is clear, our values define who we are, and our priorities — expand access for veterans, eliminate the claims backlog, and end veterans’ homelessness — will be our guideposts through this difficult time for the Nation. Serving veterans is a privilege and an honor. I am proud of you, and I look forward to continuing our work together.