WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee which funds the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), last week was honored with the Disabled American Veterans’ (DAV) DAV Veterans Champion Award in recognition of her successful efforts to fight for VA benefits. In particular, DAV cited Mikulski’s work to secure advance appropriations for veterans’ benefits in the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus bill. The award is the group’s highest honor.
“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition, but I want to honor our veterans,” Senator Mikulski said. Whether fighting to defend democracy overseas or standing sentry on the home front, America’s veterans have been there for us. We have a sacred commitment to honor all of the promises made to them when they signed up to fight for us. That’s why I’m fighting every day in the U.S. Senate to ensure the federal government maintains its commitment to veterans. Promises made must be promises kept.”
Following the 2013 government shutdown, during which veterans faced a real possibility of seeing their checks stop, Senator Mikulski vowed to make sure it would not happen again. As Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Mikulski fought last year to authorize funding a year in advance for VA benefits. As a result, 2015 is the first year funds have been appropriated in advance to protect future benefits.
Advance appropriations ensure that, even in the event of a government shutdown, money is available to pay federal benefits to disabled veterans, their survivors and others who rely on VA compensation. These benefits are used to treat service-related illness and injury like combat wounds, hearing loss and PTSD. Advance funding also protects pensions for those that have been permanently disabled while serving in the military, education benefits to support college education, housing, books and board, and spousal support for deceased veterans. This year’s VA Appropriations bill was passed by the full Appropriations Committee with advance appropriations included once again.
DAV representatives presented the award to Senator Mikulski on Wednesday in her Washington, D.C. office.