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Trump Budget Bad News for Vets, Government Retirees

budget trump

By Debbie Gregory.

While President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 aims to improve veteran care, it includes a plan to round down cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and boot some disabled, unemployed veterans from a program that allows them to receive higher disability payments.

The budget proposes to stop the higher payments once a veteran who is eligible for Social Security payments reaches the minimum age to receive them. Veterans who have already reached that age and receive Social Security would be removed immediately.

If a 60 percent disabled veteran living alone is removed from the Individual Unemployability program, their payments could decrease from the highest rate of $2,915 monthly to $1,062.

Changes would be even more dramatic for the estimated 70,000 civilian federal employees who retire yearly, along with the hundreds of thousands who are already collecting their pensions.

Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating annual cost-of-living increases for Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) enrollees completely, and lowering the adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) enrollees by 0.5 percent.  CSRS beneficiaries are not eligible for Social Security payments. FERS employees are, but those government pensions still make up a significant portion of their retirement income.

The total VA budget exceeds $186 billion for fiscal 2018, which begins October 1st. It’s a nearly 6 percent increase from fiscal 2017.

Congress would have to approve the budget proposal, but both Republican and Democratic lawmakers rejected the budget blueprint, even before it was formally released.

“Almost every president’s budget proposal is basically dead on arrival, including President Obama’s,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, making the point that such proposals are more statements of priorities than legislation. He added that Trump’s budget “may find a similar fate.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Defense Bill Vetoed, Heads Back to Congress

U.S. President Barack Obama vetoes H.R. 1735 "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016" in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington October 22, 2015. Obama officially vetoed the $612 billion defense bill on Thursday, sending the legislation back to Congress because of the way it uses money meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS5PM2

By Debbie Gregory.

President Barack Obama vetoed a $612 billion defense policy bill, insisting congressional Republicans send him a better version, one that doesn’t tie his hands on some of his top priorities.

Obama praised the bill for ensuring the military stays funded and making improvements on armed forces retirement and cybersecurity. Yet, at the same time, he accused Republicans of resorting to “gimmicks,” objecting to the way the bill purposes using money meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs.

“Unfortunately, it falls woefully short,” Obama said. “I’m going to be sending it back to Congress, and my message to them is very simple: Let’s do this right.”

Previously, Obama has vetoed only a handful of bills. And those vetoes were done in private. But in an effort to call attention to Obama’s concerns, the White House invited reporters and photographers to witness him veto this bill.

The veto marked the latest wrinkle in the ongoing fight between Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress over whether to increase federal spending, and how.

Four years after Congress passed and Obama signed into law strict, across-the-board spending limits, both parties are eager to bust through defense spending caps. Obama and many Democrats want a broader budget deal that would address mandatory cuts in domestic spending rather than only providing more funds for the Pentagon.

Republicans argue that the military should be spared many of the so-called sequestration budget cuts to ensure national security. They accuse Democrats of using the issue to camouflage a desire for irresponsible domestic spending.

Obama also said he disagreed with provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that would limit his ability to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center before he leaves office.

“It’s time for us to close it. It’s outdated, it’s expensive, it’s been there for years. We can do better in terms of keeping Americans safe while making sure that we are consistent with our values,” he said.