WASHINGTON - One of the last veterans of World War II in Congress called Thursday afternoon for his colleagues to end the government shutdown, suggesting that members of the legislative body who have appeared at the World War II memorial this week are not doing enough to support those who served in the conflict.
"If this Congress truly wishes to recognize the sacrifice and bravery of our World War II veterans and all who’ve come after, it will end this shutdown and reopen our government now,” Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said in a joint statement issued with former Republican senator Bob Dole of Kansas, a combat-injured veteran of World War II.
The Department of Veterans Affairs warned this week that its progress in cutting the backlog of disability claims by 30 percent over the past six months is likely to be reversed by the shutdown. The department said that it is no longer able to pay overtime to claims processors, an initiative begun in May that officials say was supposed to continue until November.
"The current shutdown has slowed the rate at which the government can process veterans’ disability claims and, as the VA has stated, it is negatively impacting other services to our nation’s veterans,” Dingell and Dole said in their statement.
Dingell and Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, are the only veterans of World War II remaining in Congress.
Several veterans groups, including the American Legion, have issued statements calling for an end to the shutdown.
"The American Legion wants Congress to stop its bickering and stop making America’s veterans suffer for its own lack of political resolve in the face of this national crisis,” the organization said Thursday.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars sent a letter to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders Thursday calling for a federal budget to be enacted.
"The lack of a budget will increase the VA claims backlog, and stop VA disability compensation and survivor benefit payments to millions of combat-wounded veterans and widows because Congress won’t extend the department’s authorization into the new fiscal year,” the letter states.