On the back of one of the most disgusting scandal against veterans ever, our government just took a renewed look into cutting VA's veterans disability program. Yesterday, Washington Times (WT) covered a predictable anti-veterans benefits report with a lopsided analysis of VA benefits from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that proposed veterans benefits cuts. The report notes that payouts for veterans benefits have increased since 2000. In response to the findings of the report, CBO proposed draconian cuts to disability compensation. These proposals from CBO are always a first or second step to cuts proposed by Congress down the road.
[Read the CBO Benefits Summary Report here.]
WHO REQUESTED THE REPORT?Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME) is the lawmaker who requested that the Congressional Budget Office review the increase, and that report was released last week. WT thought it would take a crack at promoting anti-benefits rhetoric on the back of the most treacherous scandal in VA history without digging deeper into the issues. The article pointed out that disabled veterans are “getting 60 percent more in payments than the average in 2000.” Veteran suffering from mental illness are targeted as the leading group causing the jump in payouts. But what does this mean? Perhaps this move by Democrats will be used to keep VA’s budget at neutral despite the current payout to help VA not kill veterans by violating their rights and the law? Any way you hack it, statements like these are hooks naysayers in Capitol Hill use to justify breaking promises with those who volunteered to protect our country – United States veterans. Their push is to reduce compensatory programs for veterans, and the push has been going on for some time. In this instance, the push will be fueled on the faulty premise that the increased payouts is somehow surprising or unwarranted. Instead, the change is likely due to an uptick in web technology, general education about benefits, and higher accountability of VA’s past failures from the courts. So in reality, America is closer to being accountable for the costs of war. What did WT not mention its coverage of the report?
THE HIDDEN TRUTHBoth WT and CBO failed to highlight the reason for the likely increase in certain types of payouts. It failed to mention VA has been wrongly denying veterans for decades with mental health conditions and complicated disabilities by illegally denying benefits while prohibiting oversight by the courts. It also failed to mention that VA has been largely underfunded for decades and the article did not account for the government finally providing proper payouts to Vietnam veterans exposed Agent Orange after 40 years of false denials. The reality is that we as a nation have a requirement to abide by our commitments to all people, including veterans. We as a nation have shirked our responsibilities and lied to ourselves about the true costs of war, the cost of which tend to be much more expensive after the war is over. The CBO report is just another example of what our country through Congress does to shirk its responsibilities.
DRACONIAN CBO BENEFITS CUTSCBO presented eight different options to “cut costs” which in my mind is an insult to the nature of being a disabled veteran. Here are the most insulting suggestions from CBO that it wants Congress to consider:
- Prevent veterans’ concurrent receipt of disability benefits and retirement. So, unlike Federal Employees, lower paid military members who are injured in service will get screwed. This would save $119 billion.
- Veterans would be prohibited from filing disability benefits applications after five years following separation from the military. This would save $28 million.
- Tax disability benefits. This would save $64 billion.
- Create time limit for initial application for disability compensation.
- Require VA to spend more money reexamining veterans to reduce payouts.
- Revoke positive association with presumptive conditions.
- Restrict Individual Unemployability benefits to those under retirement.
- Supplement payments to veterans with mental disorders.
- Change the cost of living adjustment.
- Eliminate concurrent receipt of benefits.
- Tax VA disability payments.
[Download the original full CBO report that CBO deleted.]
[Download the revised full CBO report that CBO reposted.]What do you think about these proposed cuts? Read More: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/10/government-disability-payments-skyrocketing-despit/ http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45615
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Benjamin Krause is an award winning investigative journalist, attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He wrote his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, after winning his long fight for benefits against VA to help other veterans do the same. Benjamin is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.