Stars and Stripes reported that AMVETS is protesting a series of cuts in veterans’ benefits proposed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The agency said such reductions are necessary but AMVETS argues these will negatively impact veterans in need.
Among the CBO’s proposals is to reduce eligibility for veterans’ disability compensation; this includes being compensated for certain disabilities unrelated to military duties. As of January 2020, veterans will no longer receive disability benefits if they have the following conditions: arteriosclerotic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Crohn’s disease, hemorrhoids, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and uterine fibroids. According to the CBO, Veterans Affairs (VA) paid out $2.7 billion for these medical conditions. By eliminating these payments, the CBO estimates savings of $4-$33 billion over an eight-year period, from 2020 to 2028.
The second CBO proposal calls for ending VA’s unemployment benefits to disabled veterans when they reach the full retirement age for Social Security. According to the CBO, in September 2017, of 380,000 receiving Individual Unemployability (IU) payments, 180,000 were age 67 or older (the full retirement age for Social Security); that accounted for 48% of all IU recipients at that time. The CBO attributed the high percentage to the aging of Vietnam War veterans. Under the proposal, the CBO will either stop paying current IU beneficiaries 67 or older effective January 2020, or continue payments to recipients through next January until they reach the age of 67. Estimated savings from either proposal would be $48 billion from 2020-2028.
Another proposal by the CBO is to reduce VA disability benefits to those who are older than the full retirement age for Social Security. In 2016, according to the CBO, 87% of veterans age 67 or older who received VA disability compensation due to a service-connected disability were retired. Many of these veterans were also collecting Social Security, bringing in an income that was greater than those of veterans who did not have a service-connected disability. The CBO is looking to reduce VA disability compensation payments by 30%, starting next January. Estimated savings would be $11 billion (2020-2028).
The fourth CBO proposal is to exclude veterans with low disability ratings from receiving VA disability compensation. The agency would allow veterans with disability ratings of 30% or above to receive such benefits. The CBO reports that, in 2017, 4.5 million veterans with service-connected disabilities received VA compensation, of whom 1.3 million had a disability rating of less than 30%. The CBO foresees the number of veterans with less than a 30% rating rise to 1.5 million in 2020 and 1.9 million eight years after that. As a solution, the CBO is proposing to cut VA benefits to veterans with a disability rating below 30% as of January 2020; this is expected to save $6 billion between 2020 and 2028.
“We want the White House to immediately make a statement saying these recommendations are out of line and will not be considered,” AMVETS Director Joe Chenelly told Stars and Stripes. “We understand that the White House is looking to trim costs, but this cannot be an option in that.”
If you have questions about veterans’ disability benefits, contact Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP. The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe concentrate their practice in veteran disability law. With over 50 years of combined experience between its lawyers, our attorneys may be able to assist you or a loved one in obtaining VA disability benefits. Call our office at (800) 395 -7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office.