More Wars, Less Veterans Benefits

Post date: Apr 4, 2011 5:03:37 PM

March 27, 2011 • Courtesy of

Seems like a week can’t go by with­out hear­ing some new deficit reduc­tion planwith vet­er­ans’ ben­e­fits in the crosshairs of politi­cians. All the while, these same politi­cians appear more than will­ing for us to “help lib­er­ate” one oil coun­try after another. Con­flicts like these are great for mak­ing head­lines and dis­abled vet­er­ans, but they also take from the lim­ited tax dol­lars needed to care for vet­er­ans after the con­flicts end.

Recently, Min­nesota Con­gress­woman Michelle Bach­mann backed off her plan to cut $4.5 bil­lion of fed­eral vet­er­ans’ ben­e­fits. But, Wisconsin’s famous Gov­er­nor, Scott Walker, is look­ing to cut state funds for home­less vet­er­ans by 53 per­cent and over­all ben­e­fits by over $30 mil­lion.

Texas is propos­ing a 20 per­cent cut for the Texas Vet­er­ans Com­mis­sion (TVC), total­ing over $3 mil­lion of their cur­rent $14 mil­lion bud­get. TVC filed over 170,000 vet­er­ans’ claims that resulted in over $2 bil­lion being paid out by the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs. This cut­back could result in a loss or delay of $760 mil­lion in vet­er­ans’ ben­e­fits and a loss in state sales tax rev­enue of more than $26 mil­lion.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nor Jerry Brown ­re­cently pro­posed a $10 mil­lion cut for another agency that helps return­ing Iraq and Afghanistan vet­er­ans in acquir­ing fed­eral VA ben­e­fits. Accord­ing to lob­by­ist Pete Conaty, for every $1 spent to get a vet­eran his or her ben­e­fits, the vet­eran receives $100 in ben­e­fits. This is money that stays in the local econ­omy where the vet­eran lives. It doesn’t go to for­eign aid or to some Wall Street bank. It goes to the veteran’s local hard­ware store or cof­fee shop, wher­ever she spends her money.

Per­spec­tive. In Cal­i­for­nia, 30,000 vet­er­ans return to civil­ian life every year, many of them with injuries and ques­tions about their ben­e­fits. Prior to the cur­rent wars, vet­er­ans had a 10-day wait to talk with a ben­e­fits coun­selor in per­son. Now, it takes 6 to 8 weeks for an appoint­ment. With these cuts, that delay could be even longer. States with sim­i­lar cuts will impact vet­er­ans every­where. But, what makes no sense is, that by cut­ting the up front money, these same states could lose even more mil­lions in tax rev­enue.

But this all may make sense on a broader spec­trum, even though the logic is skewed. There seems to be a recent polit­i­cal trend to cut fed­eral ben­e­fits for every­one. Unfor­tu­nately, as in Texas, vet­er­ans ben­e­fits pro­grams are being cut at a dis­pro­por­tion­ate rate within the state gov­ern­ments. When attempts to cut vet­er­ans’ ben­e­fits show to be unpop­u­lar on the national front, polit­i­cal par­ties appear to be turn­ing to the states to make up the dif­fer­ence. Either way you skin the cat, the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs could be pay­ing out less money in ben­e­fits to vet­er­ans who are truly enti­tled to them over the long term.

Visit Dis​abled​Vet​er​ans​.org for tips on how to get your ben­e­fits if you’re going it alone.