Veterans’ service organizations are joining to voice opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed $78.9 billion 2018 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The request represents a six-percent increase from the 2017 budget, and includes $3.5 billion for the Veterans Choice Program. Despite the increase, the service organizations believe it fails to address the needs of the poorest veterans who need VA services the most.
“The Trump administration’s budget proposal contains a provision to cut Individual Unemployability benefits for seriously service-connected veterans aged 65 and older. This would steal a large percentage of a wounded, injured or ill veteran’s compensation,” wrote John Hoellwarth of AMVETS.
The change would cost single veterans with 90-percent VA disability ratings roughly $1,200 per month, and would strip benefits from 225,000 older veterans, Hoellwarth wrote.
“This plan breaks faith with veterans. It’s an assault on TRICARE benefits, which were earned by veterans who spent decades of their lives serving and defending the Constitution of the United States,” said Charles E. Schmidt, commander of the American Legion – the nation’s largest veterans’ organization.
Schmidt also was critical of plans to increase the choice program at the expense of lower cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), calling it “stealth privatization.”
“Choice should not be advanced to the detriment of cost-of-living increases for veterans,” Schmidt said.