Good day hard-charges,
So there is a proposal budget from the White House in the amount of $186.5 billion for Department of Veterans Affairs operations next year.
Which includes over $13 billion for medical care outside the VA and $3.6 billion in savings from benefits trims/cuts.
The proposal, was released Tuesday and is facing much criticism. The proposal does, however, represent a boost for the department, which over the last decade has seen annual increases. While other government agencies have seen funding reductions.
President Trump’s plan calls for a $4.4 billion increase in discretionary funding for the department. That is a 6 percent increase from fiscal 2017 levels, the $82 billion total discretionary request is nearly twice as large as the department’s entire budget in fiscal 2001.
There are some who feel the VA spending request reflects that veterans’ access to timely, high quality health care is one of the administration’s highest priorities.
It was also promised to focus on providing veterans with the most efficient and effective care and benefits, and proposes several trade offs to pay for program expansions.
The most dramatic to all of these would be an end to Individual Unemployability benefits payments. These payments go to retired veterans, this move is expected to save $3.2 billion next year alone and $41 billion over the next decade.
The Individual Unemployability program allows the VA to award payouts at the 100-percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot work due to service-connected injuries.
This is even if the veterans aren’t deemed 100-percent disabled. The number of recipients have tripled since 2000, and numbers are upwards of 339,000 in the fiscal year of 2016.
President Donald Trump has proposed to stop payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. He argues that the practice amounts to the duplication of benefits. This proposal would impact more than 225,000 veterans receiving the payouts today.
Here is something else to be alarmed about, all veterans receiving benefits checks from the department would also be affected. Reason being is there is a plan to cut down cost-of-living increases to the nearest dollar, which was VA policy from the late 1990s until 2013.
Officials say the move would save $20 million in fiscal year 2018 and cost individual veterans $12 per year. This idea has lead to controversy in the past, and will most-likely face opposition from outside advocates.
Administration officials of the VA also hope to save another $42 million by capping GI Bill tuition payments to flight schools.
This is a provision which some veterans groups have supported in recent years. Tuition at these schools sometimes costs $100,000 a year. The new plan would limit payments to $21,000 annually, the same as other private universities.
A large portion of these savings will go towards reauthorizing the controversial Choice Card program, which was established in 2014 and allows veterans to seek medical care outside VA if they meet certain eligibility requirements.
VA Secretary David Shulkin has promised an overhaul of the program later this year, but it needs congressional approval to go into effect. Administration officials have asked for $2.9 billion for the program in fiscal 2018 and $3.5 billion for the effort in subsequent years, lawmakers have questioned the usability of the program.
The budget calls for $8.4 billion for mental health care and $1.7 billion for homeless assistance programs.
Lawmakers will get their first input on the budget later today, as Shulkin testifies before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the funding request hearing.
I urge you all to pay attention and keep up with current events as many of you can and most likely will be affected weather it be good or bad.
Much success to you all my dear hard-chargers.
Isaac J. Hall II