RELEASE: Gottheimer Sounds the Alarm on Far-Right Extremists Threatening Veterans with Looming Government Shutdown

Jan 16, 2024
Press

Above: Gottheimer with Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte and VFW Post-6467 Commander Warren Williams at the Paramus Veterans Home.

PARAMUS, NJ — Today, January 16, 2024, at the Paramus Veterans Home, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) sounded the alarm on the immediate, negative impact a shutdown would have on our nation’s veterans and strongly urged Members of Congress to come together and keep the government open.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

The 2013 shutdown, which spanned 17 days, cost the VA and taxpayers about $25 million dollars and 416 years of lost productivity from the 10,000 furloughed VA employees.

Government shutdown impacts on veterans:

  • Stops the VA from working through the backlog of veterans claims in their system. This will even further delay those sick or injured from receiving disability benefits including for physical conditions, chronic illnesses, and mental health conditions like PTSD.
    • More than 400,000 veterans are waiting to hear back from the VA – and a shutdown will make the wait even longer.
  • Stops the VA from providing veterans with career counseling or transition assistance program activities when veterans return home from active duty.
    • About 250,000 Service members transition to civilian life each year. 
    • These programs help deliver information, resources, resume training, interview prep, and tools to help prepare for the move from military to civilian life. 
  • Cuts off the GI Bill Hotline, which helps veterans navigate the education benefits that they’ve earned.
  • Stops the VA from being able to properly honor veterans who have passed away. The VA will be unable to place permanent headstones on veterans’ graves, and prevent them from maintaining the grounds at VA national cemeteries.

A government shutdown will also:

  • Freeze new investments for the federal school meals program, meals on wheels for seniors, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for lower-income pregnant and nursing women, babies, and young children, and for SNAP to help lower-income families with their groceries.
  • Impact the economy, infrastructure projects, federal food inspections, the safety of our nation’s transportation, and will cost jobs, profits, and economic growth.

Gottheimer Action to Stop a Government Shutdown:

  • First, Gottheimer is sending an urgent letter to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, calling on him to stand up to ultra-right extremists, honor the government funding agreement he made with Leader Schumer, avert a government shutdown, and help protect our veterans. 
  • Second, Gottheimer is urging his colleagues in the House to support a six week government funding extension and protect our veterans, children, seniors, and families from a shutdown.
    • This would allow space for a longer term budget deal to be reached.
  • Third, Gottheimer will work to avoid the lack of certainty that comes with patchwork solutions to government funding. This strategy impacts every government department, and can cost our military hundreds of millions of dollars and almost 5,000 years of lost productivity and halted projects due to staff furloughs.

“It makes me sick that these far-right extremists are ready to defund our veterans and our families most in need. Behind us, hundreds of veterans from nearly every conflict since World War Two live. It’s unimaginable to me that after sacrificing so much, any Member of Congress would put at risk key investments to help our veterans, young and old, but that’s exactly what a small group of them are doing,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “If the Speaker believes, as he should, that one of his most important responsibilities is to protect those who have served and sacrificed for our nation, there should be no scenario where he lets a small band of far-right extremists defund the government.”

Gottheimer was joined by Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte and VFW Post-6467 Commander Warren Williams.

Below: Gottheimer sounding the alarm on the looming government shutdown effects on veterans.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery below: 

Good morning, I hope that everyone in New Jersey is staying safe. Be careful on the roads. And it’s cold out there. Remember to call 2-1-1 or visit nj211.org if you need to find and access the nearest emergency warming shelter.

We’re here today at the Paramus Veterans Home because if the ultra-right extremists have their way, and shut the government down this Friday night, millions of veterans across our country will be left out in the cold. So, I’m here to sound the alarm on the immediate, negative impact a shutdown would have on our nation’s veterans, and so many others, including seniors and children — and strongly urge Members of Congress to come together and keep the government open.

For years I’ve been visiting the Paramus Veterans home behind us. And whether it’s to celebrate Valentine’s Day with cards from students, or delivering masks and gowns during the pandemic, my commitment to those who’ve served remains constant – we should always get the backs of those who’ve had ours. Those who’ve sacrificed so much for our nation — to protect our freedom around the world. 

That’s why I always tell my own kids that whenever we see a veteran, we should always thank them for their service. For what they did for the greatest country in the world. And when our veterans come home from active duty, or when they are in their golden years right here in Paramus, they shouldn’t have to worry. 

Well, the truth, and I’ve heard this from far too many veterans who live in my District, many of them are worried about the looming government shutdown — about Congress cutting off or even delaying investments in the care and resources they’ve earned and deserve. 

In four days, if we don’t pass a short-term funding bill, and the far-right extremists get their way, here’s how veterans will suffer.  

First, a government shutdown will literally shut down the ability for the VA to handle its massive backlog of veterans claims in their system. What does that mean? This will even further delay those sick or injured from receiving disability benefits including for physical conditions, chronic illnesses, and mental health conditions like PTSD. Imagine that? Leaving those veterans hurt on the battlefield or suffering from PTSD who protected our flag out in the cold? This is a huge problem. More than 400,000 veterans are waiting to hear back from the VA – and this will make the wait even longer.  

Second, a shutdown will stop the VA from providing veterans with career counseling or transition assistance program activities when veterans return home from active duty. 

About 250,000 Service members transition to civilian life each year. The transition assistance program provides services such as employment workshops and virtual curriculum to separating service members, veterans, and spouses. They rely upon the program for information, resources, resume training, interview prep, and tools to help prepare for the move from military to civilian life. Yes, that means when veterans come home from the front lines, they will no longer receive the help they need to prepare for getting a job.

Third, the shutdown will cut off the GI Bill Hotline, which helps veterans navigate the education benefits that they’ve earned. And, this is hard to believe, but, because far-right extremists want to shut the government down, the VA won’t even be able to properly honor veterans who have passed away. That’s right, a government shutdown would stop the VA from placing permanent headstones on veterans’ graves, and prevent them from maintaining the grounds at VA national cemeteries.

The 2013 shutdown, for example, which spanned 17 days, cost the VA and taxpayers about $25 million dollars and 416 years of lost productivity from the 10,000 furloughed VA employees. 

If the government shuts down this Friday, the effects, unfortunately, go far beyond our nation’s veterans. It will affect children, families, seniors across Jersey and our country. It will affect SNAP and school meals programs – key to feeding our children and hard-pressed families.  It will impact the Women, Infants, and Children program, known as WIC, which is already experiencing funding shortfalls, putting at risk the health of lower-income babies, children, and pregnant and nursing women. More than six million mothers and children rely on WIC – including more than 130,000 in Jersey. 

Can you imagine in the greatest country in the world that we will have children and babies going hungry because we can’t pass a budget and fund the government?  The impact of course will ultimately be felt by seniors who rely on Meals on Wheels – not to mention military pay, funding our national defense, the list goes on.

It makes me sick that these far-right extremists are ready to defund our veterans and our families most in need. Behind us, hundreds of veterans from nearly every conflict since World War Two live. It’s unimaginable to me that after sacrificing so much, any Member of Congress would put at risk key investments to help our veterans, young and old, but that’s exactly what a small group of them are doing. 

That’s the bad news. But, as you all know by now, I’m an optimist. I’m for reasonable, commonsense governing – I’m not big on letting extremists burn the place down. We can stop a shutdown if both sides work together and put common sense over extremism. And as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Today, I’m sending an urgent letter to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, calling on him to stand up to his ultra-right extremists, honor the government funding agreement he made with Leader Schumer, avert a government shutdown, and help protect our veterans. It couldn’t be any clearer that the benefits earned by our veterans are at risk – not to mention the far-ranging impact a shutdown will have on our children, seniors, active duty and national defense, transportation, food safety, you name it. 

If the Speaker believes, as he should, that one of his most important responsibilities is to protect those who have served and sacrificed for our nation, there should be no scenario where he lets a small band of far-right extremists defund the government. 

Second, I’m urging my colleagues in the House to support a six week government funding extension and protect our veterans, children, seniors, and families from a shutdown. We have until this Friday at midnight to pass this extension, allowing us more time to work out the specifics on a bipartisan budget agreement to fully fund our government. 

Third, let me be clear, even if we pass this extension, called a continuing resolution, before Friday and extend funding into March, this is no way to run a railroad. The lack of certainty impacts every government department, and can cost our military hundreds of millions of dollars and almost 5,000 years of lost productivity and halted projects due to staff furloughs. We can’t keep running the government on temporary, patchwork solutions. We cannot continue to play these ridiculous and complicated games with the health and futures of our veterans, our military, our children, and our nation. 

It’s time we put partisanship aside, stop this cycle of insanity, and work out a long-term bipartisan budget deal.

It’s the least we can do for our veterans here — soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and women, and Coast Guardsmen and women.  

It’s why I’ve been proud, since my first days in Congress, to lead both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to care for and protect our veterans. In fact, the very first amendment I ever introduced in Congress was to support our veterans. It was signed into law and helped accelerate the hiring of post- 9/11 veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

I also helped get the PACT Act signed into law, which helps roughly 3.5 million of our brave veterans exposed to burn pits and toxic substances, and cut through red tape with the VA Community Care Network to ensure eligible North Jersey veterans are able to receive referrals for community care at ImageCare Centers across the Fifth District. I’ll continue working to make sure there are adequate facilities that enable faster care, shorter travel times, and improved access to the benefits veterans have earned — especially in parts of North Jersey that have seen much harder access to VA facilities.

Over the past two years, my office has helped hundreds of veterans access their VA benefits and service medals and constantly helps our veterans access pension benefits, disability compensation, GI Bill benefits, and more. My door is always open. 

And it’s why we must unite, Democrats and Republicans, to pass a short-term funding bill while we work to fully fund the government. If not, our veterans and families will be the ones who suffer the most. 

These are not red or blue issues — they are red, white, and blue — and we need to work on them together.

Here in the greatest country in the world, we must always take care of our own. That’s the only way to ensure that our best days will always be ahead of us.

God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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