April 11, 2011

Congressional Budget Panel Proposal looks to cut VA care for 1.3 million Veterans

House Budget Committee looks to save $6 billion annually in Veterans Affairs health care costs by limiting enrollment

WASHINGTON, DC - As pressure mounts from all sides to decrease the national debt, lawmakers are looking to cut spending from governmental agencies that have provided essential services for decades. However, the budget battle has focused on recent weeks to slash spending from an agency once thought immune from such drastic measures: the VA.

In the budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin last Monday, the VA will see a total reduction of $6 billion from its agency annually, the most dramatic cut to the Veteran’s system in its history. Specifically, the budget proposal looks to limit health care spending in the VA by canceling enrollment of any veteran who doesn’t have a service-related medical condition and is not poor, a cut that will likely affect over 1.3 million American Veterans.

The budget proposal introduced by Rep. Ryan is just one of a series of several budget proposals introduced in the last weeks, each of which have featured some form of cuts to spending towards our military veterans and their families.

“It is simply amazing to see how willing congressional leaders are to cutting veterans benefits,” said GI Go Fund Deputy Director Alexander Manis. “Veterans of all conflicts deserve to be treated and cared for, not broken down into subcategories that will determine whether it’s too expensive to take care of them.”

The cuts, if adopted by Congress and signed into law, would directly affect veterans who fall under Priority Groups 7 and 8, who generally do not have direct service-connected disabilities and do not qualify as “poor” under department standards. The Congressional Budget Office said this would save VA $62 billion in the first 10 years, from 2012 to 2021. But the total savings towards the federal budget will be limited, as the veterans who will be cut from the VA program will become more dependent on Medicare and Medicaid.

Experts on both sides of the aisle agree that the Ryan budget proposal is unlikely to pass, but it highlights a growing trend in Washington that more and more of our leaders are showing a willingness to cut spending towards veterans and the military in general. Recent budget proposals have also targeted cutting housing vouchers for homeless veterans, and the recent government shutdown crisis almost saw millions of soldiers currently fighting overseas face a lapse in their paychecks.

We will continue to monitor this disturbing new reality in the veterans’ world, looking to prevent veterans from becoming causalities of a political battle.