Shinseki: VA Does Face Cuts in a Sequester

Although veteran benefits will be exempt from the cuts, a slashed administrative budget affect the agency's ability to make payments.

The Veterans Affairs Department faces cuts in its administrative budget early next year if the Budget Control Act goes into effect and imposes automatic cuts on the department’s budget, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Wednesday.

Although veteran benefits will be exempt from the cuts, with a slashed administrative budget the VA will have a hard time paying its employees and running the systems that pump out the checks, Shinseki told a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees.

He provided few details at the hearing. “VA is exempt from sequestration except for administrative costs… I don’t have a definition of administrative costs right now,” he said.

Monday, in a speech at the VFW conference in Reno, Nev., President Obama said VA was exempt from the automatic budget cuts.

House VA Committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said he –- and veterans –- need a clear explanation of the pending cuts. “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?

“Congress, and more important, our veterans, deserve an honest, straight-forward answer,” he said.