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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced that she has joined U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Begich (D-AK) in introducing a bill to ensure that healthcare for U.S. veterans will be fully exempt from any across-the-board cuts to federal spending mandated by last year’s bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA).  Under that measure, which Shaheen continues to support, the budget will automatically be reduced by across-the-board cuts of over $100 billion per year, starting in 2013 and continuing over the next decade.

“Veterans earn health benefits as part of their service to our nation, and this bill ensures that America will keep its contract with these brave men and women,” Shaheen said.  “This is not an attempt to change any portion of the Budget Control Act, but rather to preserve its original intent, which was to protect veterans’ health benefits.”

The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires automatic budget cuts over 10 years totaling $1.2 trillion to begin in 2013 unless Congress passes specific deficit reduction measures.  While Congressional intent under BCA was to protect veterans’ healthcare, it is currently unclear whether the statute as enacted could still include that program under automatic cuts.  The Senators’ bill clarifies that veterans’ healthcare will not be cut.

Veterans pension and disability compensation benefits are already exempt from the automatic cuts.

The Senators’ bill is supported by the VFW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS.  It is available online here.

In New Hampshire, Shaheen has worked diligently to improve veterans’ access to healthcare.  She helped bring a VA health clinic to Keene, greatly improving the ability of Monadnock area veterans to receive healthcare conveniently and has introduced legislation to ensure that veterans have access to a full-service VA hospital or equivalent services in New Hampshire.  Recently, Shaheen also called on the VA to approve an application to establish a partnership between the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) Manchester and Dartmouth Medical School.