Earlier this afternoon, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing on the President’s proposed for the 2018 fiscal year. While many programs are facing major cuts, veterans’ programs are receiving a six percent increase in the 2018 budget proposal compared to fiscal year 2017. There are many people who argue this is great for our veterans, but many experts are quick to point out the devil is in the details.
There were several representatives of veterans’ groups there to testify about their concerns. One of their major concerns was the fact that the budget would cut the Individual Unemployability (IU) compensation for veterans who are eligible for Social Security.
The way the system is currently set up a married disabled veteran who is receiving 100% IU receives over $3,000 a month. If the changes are put in place that the Trump Administration has proposed, it would go down to about $1,300 once they hit the age wen they could begin receiving social security. John Rowan, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of American, said that this was simply unacceptable.
“Should any member of Congress exhibit political naivete and vote to eliminate IU at age 62,” Rowan said, “tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans in their late sixties and seventies would be in jeopardy of not being able to meet their basic needs, which would lead, for many, to impoverishment, homelessness, even suicide.”
Joseph Chenelly, the Executive Director of AMVETS, pointed out that the organization “has received thousands of calls and messages over the past two weeks from veterans decrying the proposal to steal” benefits from 225,000 veterans who are over the age of 62.
Part of the argument for changing the payment structure is that people will receive benefits from social security. It should be noted, however, that the payments for many disabled veterans are usually really small from Social Security. That’s because they often can’t work, so they haven’t paid into the system like someone who isn’t disabled. In fact, their social security can be as little as $25 a month.
The Administration also claims this move is something worthwhile because it would save $3.2 billion in 2018 and $41 billion over the next decade. As Chenelly from AMVETS pointed out, though, there would be “serious repercussions.” In addition to the direct payments that would be lost, it would also impact their healthcare, educational benefits, tax relief, and commissary privileges.
In other words, the cuts would have a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans. And that is why so many different veterans groups decided to speak out against the cuts to IU compensation.