House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to review President Trump’s proposed FY2018 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin explained the administration’s priorities for the next fiscal year that includes expanding the VA Choice Program, modernizing VA disability claims process, improving suicide prevention and programs tailored to meet the special needs of women veterans. The proposed budget also eliminates the Individual Unemployability benefit payments to retirement-age disabled veterans. Under current policies, the Individual Unemployability program allows the 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 Administration has proposed stopping those payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. This cut would impact more than 225,000 veterans currently receiving this benefit. This is a drastic move. I encourage everyone to contact their Senators and Congressman and have this IU proposal stopped immediately. Just because veterans have started to receive Social Security, does not mean they are no longer as disabled. I don’t think people in Washington realized what this will do to our older disabled veterans. If this passes in the budget, our disabled vets will not only lose about $1,400.00 per month, but here are some of the benefits lost to these 225,000 veterans:
- They stand to lose the property tax exemption of 100% of the tax on their home, which will revert to a small part of the value not taxed instead of none of the home being taxed. This is passed to the spouse when the vet dies, so the spouse loses also.
- They stand to lose dependents education benefits, so if their spouse or children are in college on this program, the money will stop.
- The will lose their priority of healthcare at the VA hospitals.
- They will lose dental benefits from the VA hospitals.
- They stand to lose free hearing aids from the VA hospitals.
- They will lose the military ID cards for them and their spouses, so forget shopping at any military base, as well as all facilities on those bases (food, clothing, gas, the use of gyms and exercise programs, legal assistance, etc.)
- They stand to lose DIC for spouse if they would remain 100% for 10 years. DIC is a VA payment to the spouse of a decease veteran, right now it is about $1,200 per month.
- They stand to lose travel pay for milage to and from the VA hospitals for treatment.
- They will lose the premiums being waived on their VA Life Insurance, so they will have to make the premiums on whatever disability they have left.
These are just some of the benefits these vets will stand to lose. The government may save $315,000,000 off the backs of our disabled veterans each year, but the veterans will have to pay for education, dental, hearing aids, property tax, gas to and from appointments, life insurance premiums. As an example, if a vet’s SS is $892 a month, he loses $1,400 a month for $892, and has all these expenses. The government should start building more housing units quickly because all of these vets will lose their homes, and need a cheap place to live, and ensure more money is put in the welfare pot because they will need food stamps, etc. Hope that is not as expensive and what they are proposing to do to our older disabled vets. They did not wake up at age 65 and not be disabled anymore, they cannot work to earn money.
Veterans receiving benefit checks from the VA would also have their annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) reduced or “round down” to the nearest dollar. I want to work towards a balanced budget just as much as anyone, but not off the backs of our older disabled veterans. For more information contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.
Sandra G. Van Zant
Veterans County Service Officer