Vets groups discuss debt talks at White House

AP News
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Posted: Jul 26, 2011 7:39 PM
Vets groups discuss debt talks at White House

Leaders from veterans groups heard warnings from White House officials Tuesday about the potential impact on veterans benefits if a deal isn't reached by the Aug. 2 deadline to increase the government's borrowing limit.

But they were offered few specifics at a White House meeting about exactly how veterans would be affected, participants said.

Obama has said he can't guarantee Social Security checks and payments to veterans and the disabled will go out on schedule in the absence of a deal.

Leaders from the veterans services organizations who attended the meeting said White House officials, including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, said they couldn't speculate on what the priorities would be in terms of payments by the government if a deal isn't reached and the government can't meet all its financial obligations. Instead, they said the White House officials emphasized how important it was for both sides to reach a compromise.

"I think their main point is in hopes we'd convey to our members that what is needed here is compromise and shared sacrifice to get through this," retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, said.

Obama has asked the public to contact Congress and press lawmakers for a deal, and the White House has been working to educate advocacy groups and has reached out to mayors and governors. Administration officials also have begun to plan for the fallout if a deal isn't reached _ an outcome officials dismissed until recently as unthinkable _ but haven't detailed exactly how it would play out.

Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said it's frustrating to not have more information to give those who rely on the payments.

"There haven't been clear messages from the White House and Congress about who will get paid and when," Rieckhoff said. "That's why there's so much anxiety and concern."