During a government shutdown, when active-duty troops were forced to wonder whether they would receive their paychecks and death gratuities for the families of fallen troops were interrupted, it’s natural that every remaining dime the government spends would warrant close inspection, even cynicism.
But one recent Veterans Affairs Department expenditure is unfairly drawing fire from one lawmaker.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently saw VA television ads airing in the Washington, D.C., area during the shutdown, advertising help the department provides to vets. He fired off a letter Oct. 8 to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, deriding VA for running the ads amid the shutdown, during which he said the “expensive” display seemed inappropriate.
A VA spokeswoman defended the ads, calling them “in line with VA’s obligation to conduct outreach to veterans.” And she’s right.
Even in a shutdown, VA’s single mission — to make sure every veteran knows about, and receives, every benefit he or she deserves — should be considered essential. The ads, which VA also points out were funded from the previous fiscal year’s money, are among the most crucial ways to execute that mission. They’re running in the Washington market, VA says, because that’s home to one of the highest concentration of veterans, and it has one of the lowest rates of enrollment in the veterans health care system.
VA deserves praise, not criticism, for its strategic decision to keep these outreach ads on air even during a shutdown. It shows that, despite myriad troubles facing the department, helping veterans rightfully remains its top priority.