By Debbie Gregory.
Many veterans are up in arms about the plan to cut financial support for aging and disabled veterans in the proposed federal budget. Joining them are numerous veterans organizations that slammed the budget proposals as soon as they were issued.
“We are very concerned the administration’s request to make the Veterans Choice Program a permanent, mandatory program could lead to a gradual erosion of the VA health care system,” the Veterans of Foreign Wars said in written testimony to a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“We’re extremely alarmed by this budget proposal, because this is the opposite of what President Trump promised veterans,” said John Rowan, the national president of Vietnam Veterans of America.
The White House budget plan includes cuts to the Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit, in part to pay for changing the Choice program to the Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences (CARE) program, which could impact an estimated 225,000 veterans.
Currently, veterans eligible for IU have a 60-100 percent disability rating but are paid at the 100 percent rate because a service-connected disability makes them unable to work. The budget proposal would cut off IU payments upon reaching the minimum age for Social Security and according to VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, some 7,000 veterans on IU are over the age of 80.
Had a veteran become disabled at a young age, he or she wouldn’t have been able to pay for Social Security or put money into a 401(k) or other retirement savings account.
Shulkin said that the VA is “sensitive to the issue” but had to find savings to pay for other programs. The change in eligibility for IU would save an estimated $3.2 billion in fiscal 2018 and $40.8 billion over 10 years.