Shutdown's Effect on Veterans Detailed on Capitol Hill

Gen. Eric Shinseki discusses methods to shore up funding amid the U.S. government's shutdown.
18:44 | 10/09/13

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Transcript for Shutdown's Effect on Veterans Detailed on Capitol Hill
This is a special room. Hello I'm -- -- New York in the maybe he's digital special report -- day nine of the government shut down but more importantly they -- now just eight days away from hitting the debt ceiling. With all this happening in the meantime house veteran affairs committee is discussing a new bill to fund the veterans administration during that shocked now. Let's listen. The -- directly threatens VA's ability to eliminate the backlog we've lost ground we fought hard to take. Roughly 14100 veterans -- -- are now not receiving decisions. On their disability compensation claims due to the end of overtime. At the shutdown does not end in the coming weeks -- will not be able to assure delivery. 1 November checks. To more than five point. 18 million beneficiaries. And that accounts for about six point 25 billion dollars and payments that people are expecting. And compensation. And pensions and dependence and indemnity compensation DIC. Fiduciary educational. Vocational rehabilitation unemployment benefits. Including veterans who -- 100% disabled. Surviving spouses. -- shall eligible children orphaned by the deaths of their military or veteran parent. Tuition and stipends for over 500000 veterans service members -- eligible family members and education programs will also stop. These are some of the major issues veterans face of the shutdown continues. My written testimony includes details of other negative impacts to -- IT initiatives. To our National Cemetery Administration whose employees. Late on address those who have served this nation. The VA staff offices. And to VA employees themselves especially those who -- veterans. While some have suggested a series of many containing -- resolutions of many CR's if you will. As an approach to meeting our FY 2014. Budgetary. Responsibilities for funding the government. That's not a solution. For veterans -- for our nation. The budget request submitted by President Obama nearly six months ago as a result of an extensive cooperative. Synchronized effort across all departments and agencies. To produce a budget request that -- apparently balanced priorities. And risks. Picking and choosing parts of government to fund would ignore two -- drum beats. That I've tried to deliver over the past four and a half years the first is that very little what we were caught and -- originates and being. Much of that originates in another department. And -- second VA's care for veterans and by that I mean health care -- education employment insurance. Housing. For both the homeowner and the homeless. Does not occur without significant coordination -- DOD. With housing and urban development HHS. Social Security treasury. Education labor the IRS Small Business Administration. And frankly it is this collaboration among state and across the government that allows us to be effective. And I would add to that we have a fourth mission I think as the chairman. Recalls besides three administration. We have a fourth mission in the event of emergency and national disaster humanitarian requirements. That a must make available. Our capabilities. Where -- -- -- and so our work with FEMA. And -- HS Homeland Security is also part of our day to day responsibilities these are not. And significant connections for this department. Without them we are less effective than serving veterans -- service members their families and our survivors. And so these little facts that I present most -- chairman. At a critical time for veterans every one -- VA as you said should be focusing. On how best accomplish their missions and so I asked the dramatic. And the rest of congress. To help us by resolving this fiscal impasse now. So that VA -- our federal partners on whom we have to rely to do our work. And get back to work full time fulfilling president Lincoln's call to care for those who have borne the -- Thank you mr. Think -- -- much mr. secretary. You and I both know that. Regular order. Is not in the mode that we're in today but regular order -- fact requires a piecemeal approach. Of twelve appropriation bills. 126. Plus days ago this house on a bipartisan. Basis. Passed. AB a military construction bill that fully funded not just partially funded only short term basis. Which is what -- asking for now is -- -- report embassy -- Fully funded. Yet that bill languages. Over in the senate to my colleagues who may not recall because it's been so long that we sent that bill over to the senate. There's -- little difference. Maybe a quarter of -- percent. Difference between the two bills. It could very easily. Be brought forward. In this would be off the table. And so might my question is in in statement is in years past. House and senate regardless of -- and the white house -- always come together and try to find a way to prioritize. How money would be spent -- would be at the top the list is we started to you to shut the government ban and run out of money. And and today we we don't have that. Even back in the shutdown of 1995. There was a pro organization. And DOD and veterans were taken off the table. Which they're not right now so my question mr. secretary is. Is don't you think VA benefits certainly should get the same priority. Or per -- to station today as it has in other shut down situations. -- -- last -- -- your question mister chairman and some priority just basically in in years in years past. We have in fact prioritized spending needs DOD NBA has always been basically taken off the table. And my question is what's different this time. And don't you think veterans' benefits. In fact should be. -- -- at a higher level than others within our federal government. -- -- -- -- -- -- just tell you this department has benefited from leadership of the president and the its leadership and support in the congress if you look at what is. Transpired over the last four years to our budgets I think we can all be proud. Of what we have done -- take care of veterans and I will always tell you that that's a top priority with me. But I do understand. There is some budget request presented to the congress. There is a process that you refer to them. Requires a passage of a budget within that. The individual departments. And then provided a guidance on what their budgets will be I'm not sure war. The congress is in that process. But I would ask the congress. To provide us a budget. So that not only this department but our partners in government on whom we -- to do our mission. Well. Can get on with business. I think it's important to to discuss the differences between -- budget and an appropriation because that has been completed in the national media. The because of budget hasn't been passed we -- appropriate money in fact we've done it. For a number of years now because we haven't been able to come -- an agreement on a on a budget. We did pass in this house over a 126. Days ago now. By large bipartisan measure and I would hope you would know or have some type of an idea. Of why the senate is holding that so tight. Has chosen not to move that legislation -- -- passed for different full appropriation bills. And and I'm hoping that maybe you can help me understand why the senate continues not to act on the full. Not a piecemeal. Partial. Bill but a whole funding bill. Mr. chairman I I appreciate your confidence in my ability to sort through this for the congress. I would just claim to be just an average guy trying to do a job here but here's what I'm facing. I don't know there was going to be -- shutdown. I have no idea that this was. Intended to to happen. And so. Month of September is for me the end of the fiscal year. What usually happens is I'm trying to get people tell me how they finish what I've instructed them to do throughout the year with the funds that the congress has. Provided generously provided. And and and anticipate that I will have a budget on 1 October. And which don't understand how to make that transition. Because these transitions. In the past have been difficult congress authorizes. -- carry over opportunity. A but it limits what I can carry over. And so in one department -- -- one administration and may be as low as 4%. And another that may go as high as 10% but these are limitations. I need to understand what we are doing to close out properly -- I know what our carry overs going to be so that. I can understand that where meeting congress' intent. And then expecting that I'm gonna have a budget in which to dovetailed these activities and -- and usually takes me about ten days. At the end of fiscal year to be able to bring this to order -- about today -- one I would have. These factors coming together and in fact this week one -- in the week that I. Would have my FY fourteen execution meetings with the various accounts. I would just tell you these factors are coming together daily and -- adjustments here. And how much money is available. And and the burn rate at which. Those funds will last. And so we're doing the best we can two things we're doing here. We're trying to keep our operations are going for as long as possible to -- where we are allowed by exception on the law. To take care of as many veterans as we can for as long as possible. The other thing I have to do is make sure I'm taking care of our employees so that. I'm not telling people that they're gonna be furloughed when in fact they aren't going to be so there is a period of time here not to be alarmist. But at an appropriate moment when we know we're gonna have to. We're not gonna have a budget we're gonna have to take other steps. That we will. And form our employees that there are going to be -- the ones that have been furloughed we've gone through this process. But -- not just telling them your -- closed door and leave. We're gonna get a budget here at some point -- chairman. And what I want our offices to be able to do is come back and assume. Is capable be up and running at that full speed. And that requires us to close out an orderly function of plywood in forgive -- -- fall back to -- All military experience you know at the end of the day I want everyone on the fighting position. To organize for whatever might happen that night grenades in one location rifles. Florian in the right direction left and right aiming stakes ammunition water. And be prepared. I want us to be in the same position that when we have a budget people go back to work and were up at full speed so we're taking care of veterans. As quickly as we can't I don't want spend thirty days trying to figure out how we get back to that. Point. Thank you for secretary -- show. They can continue watching your house veteran affairs committee -- -- on abcnews.com. Right ever gonna bring in. From Washington should shop at wal -- the White House. Has agreed to some of these stop -- funding measures that is what this hearing is about the veterans administration asking at least for some money in the interim until they work out a deal. Other of these requests have been denied -- what are the prospects for this bill we're talking about nearly four million veterans who are gonna get their checks in November. Right. It's hard -- you just heard all the details about the veterans I've been for led the amount of veterans benefits are going unpaid. And from the president and -- senate Democrats their point view is that they haven't been. Approving these some of these stopgap measures because they want the entire government to be -- they want the government -- and if they. Keep on finding these piecemeal. Let parts of legislation then it's keeping it from me -- entirely. Government from being re opened because of these. More essential parts are being opened but this one is a -- -- politically it will look. Even worse than this entire situation. If this if the senate and also the president -- -- -- I think that that's -- have the better chance and other once we've seen. Are -- we're hearing whispers that -- -- deal might solve partly spiked however some time. To negotiate that debt ceiling -- we have house speaker John Boehner speaking yesterday let's let's say. When it comes to the debt -- I agree with the president and we should pay -- bills. I think -- shut down -- government I certainly didn't come here to default on our debt. But when it comes to the debt limit again over the last 040 years when he seven times the debt limit. Has been used to carry significance is a significant policy changes that would in fact. A reduced spending and policy on the scene -- fiscal path. A -- what is the latest here we see these two once separate issues converging in terms of negotiations. Why would I want to stress for the standoff does continue and may even be worse than it was yesterday that they gave for the -- of -- but I think what. What we're talking I hear it in that what could be changing -- -- yesterday. Harry Reid also -- pockets. They. Brought up legislation that would hold off this decision to raise the debt ceiling and could have put it off until. On December 30 forest 24 teens that -- between fortune elections. And out again around the holiday time but so -- got it cut its kind the next step but there has been no movement. On these two sides coming together except that legislation being. Okay in the meantime we still have this October 17 deadline absolutely we also have some house Republicans -- is suggesting that. Of course everything we've heard up until now has suggested that it will be a deal especially. For our markets out there so what is the thinking today. Well you are seeing -- these and some Republicans are saying listen we we've never seen this before maybe it won't be that bad or week there is money there. Or they date isn't. Hard and fast October 17. But there's a lot that proof and evidence on the other side that that's wrong. And that October 17 is the day that -- Anthony's key rate for the bill our bills and the united they'll have to be paid and that as -- -- the present here yesterday that it could affect on. The way that we are seen overseas and the people -- also our credit we're seeing even China. And two days ago to say that we need to get our. -- are the situation in order because of how much money is at stake here and so. You're seeing people even -- -- and the president said yesterday that this Kabila and new could be like a new -- disaster -- -- -- Bonner and so. It's the Republicans are saying this they're saying it because we've never seen it before and really the president's point of view is is it worth the risk. And we do have members of the key part -- is still holding firm to the idea of wanting to take a chunk out of Obama -- in that final deal. Does that still hold other other issues that have cropped up in the meantime in terms of these are nonexistent negotiations. Right well and that's -- That's unclear right that if they don't get Obama care what's the end result what's -- the deal and what we're hearing is that there really isn't. -- -- set out the signs the current pathway that that they want Obama care. -- put off for another year and we know that the senate Democrats and the president knock and to do that and that's what you're seeing that stand -- still -- in the -- in the second week when canine. And how. And how they're doesn't it doesn't seem to -- Any movement on either side so whether there's as some -- other and game we're not seeing that today. OK and finally you know it certainly a lot of Harry Reid is at the forefront of this ice -- -- obviously what happens from here on we heard a lot. From Joseph Biden. -- back story there. Well you bring up an interesting point really in impasse kind of standoffs -- situations like this. The vice president Joseph Biden has really been that deal maker in chief and we've really seen -- out there on capitol. This time we're not seeing him -- And more poor or ports are out there that it's because Harry Reid himself has said that he isn't going to bite out there that bit that Democrats felt like Joseph Biden -- too much. And that's why -- he's -- the -- Of the Democrats. Democratic side of the shut down. And he's the one that's out their at least. And supposedly making deals but what we're seeing from both sides is that the standoff continues and it really is very little negotiation. Our ABC -- shop and wash thank you so much for joining us figured. Watching ABC news digital special report. --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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