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.”