Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump's big VA budget request comes with proposed trims to veterans benefits

WASHINGTON — The White House’s proposed $186.5 billion budget for Department of Veterans Affairs operations next year includes more than $13 billion for medical care outside VA and $3.6 billion in savings from benefits trims.
The proposal, officially released Tuesday and now facing months of scrutiny on Capitol Hill, represents another sizable boost for the department, which over the last decade has seen annual increases while other government agencies have faced funding reductions.
President Trump’s plan calls for a $4.4 billion increase in discretionary funding for the department, roughly a 6 percent increase from fiscal 2017 levels. The $82 billion total discretionary request is nearly twice as large as the department’s entire budget in fiscal 2001, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Officials said the VA spending request reflects that “veterans’ access to timely, high quality health care is one of this administration’s highest priorities.” But they also promised their focus is on “providing veterans with the most efficient and effective care and benefits,” and proposes several trade offs to pay for program expansions.
The most dramatic of those is an end to Individual Unemployability benefit payments to retirement-age veterans, a move expected to save $3.2 billion next year alone and $41 billion over the next decade. 
Under current policies, the Individual Unemployability program allows VA to award payouts at the 100-percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if they are not deemed 100-percent disabled. The number of program recipients has tripled since 2000, reaching almost 339,000 in fiscal 2016.
Trump has proposed stopping those payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, arguing the practice now amounts to “the duplication of benefits.” It would impact more than 225,000 veterans receiving the payouts today.
All veterans receiving benefits checks from the department would also be affected by a plan to “round down” cost-of-living increases to the nearest dollar, which was VA policy from the late 1990s until 2013. 

1 comment:

  1. This article is confusing. (Almost everything is when you're talking about the VA.)

    My question is: If you're receiving service-connected disability compensation, 100% rating, at age 73 but you were not awarded Individual Unemployability, would this new budget proposal still reduce your monthly P&C check?