Donald Trump’s presidency has been plagued by setbacks since he took office, notably hampering his efforts to follow through on promises made during his campaign. His efforts at a travel ban have thus far been thwarted, and his bid to repeal and replace Obamacare is unlikely to come to fruition any time soon.
He has also submitted a budget proposal which is contentious, to say the least. The proposed budget is basically a wish list outlining what the president would like to see from a budgetary standpoint, and it may change considerably as it makes the rounds in Congress before it is finally approved.
President Trump’s proposed budget, entitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness”, is a departure from the last administration, setting forth new priorities with significant budget cuts in some areas and increases in others. For example, the budget calls for a major increase (10%) in military spending, as well as allocations for the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It also cuts money currently assigned to health care, food stamps, student loans, and more.
In addition, the proposed budget may be both beneficial and detrimental to veterans in a variety of ways. While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is slated to receive a 6% increase to its discretionary budget, which is a major boon, “A New Foundation for American Greatness” simultaneously takes aim at disability payments for veterans.
Of particular concern are proposed cuts to Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits for veterans age 65 and older. What does this mean for disabled veterans? Here’s what you need to know.
IU Benefits on the Chopping Block
According to Brigadier General Martin Schweitzer, the rationale behind the move to cut IU benefits at the age of 65 is that these veterans are eligible for social security benefits, even though one has nothing to do with the other. The American Veterans (AMVETS) organization has calculated that the proposed budget cut to IU benefits would strip the most vulnerable veterans of needed funds.
For example, a veteran rated at 90% disabled could lose around $1,200 per month by switching from IU to social security alone, and those with lower disability ratings could lose even more. AMVETS estimates that as many as 225,000 senior veterans with disabilities related to their service could be threatened by this budget cut.
Disability vs Social Security
It’s important to understand that Individual Unemployability benefits are very different from social security. The veterans that receive IU benefits are disabled due to their military service, and this often leaves them unable to work (hence the disability benefits). Social security is something that adults pay into through their employment so that they can receive some money back from the government following retirement (to supplement individual retirement accounts).
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, social security is based on earnings and contributions. Because disabled veterans are often unable to work, they’re not eligible for the same amount of social security payout as individuals that have contributed for their entire adult lives.
In addition, however, social security is available for all Americans. Even those who are ineligible because they never contributed could still gain spousal benefits in certain circumstances. However, not everyone is eligible for IU benefits – these are reserved specifically for veterans that suffer a service connected disability.
This puts them in a special class, with special benefits that are completely separate from social security benefits. In other words, these veterans are eligible for both IU and social security benefits, regardless of age.
Says BG Martin Schweitzer, “The government is now saying that social security payments, which an individual paid into his whole life, now cover benefits reserved for disabled veterans. The government has decided that it is too expensive to take care of our veterans so it will now claim social security is appropriate – which has nothing to do with disability benefits our Nation owes to its veterans.”
Treating Veterans Right
Veterans provide an invaluable service to our nation, one that requires uncommon courage and often, sacrifice. For what these veterans give, they deserve something in return. Those that are disabled in service to their country deserve compensation that the current budget proposal would strip them of when they need it most.
General Martin Schweitzer sees a common theme here, one in which veterans are treated as a burden and an inconvenience. However, he has a proposal of his own. “The government has tons of waste in how it operates,” he says. “If you want to make cuts, have congress stop spending money they don’t have – don’t do this on the backs of our veterans.”
About the Author:
Brigadier General Martin Schweitzer retired on 30 September 2014 from the United States Army after 29 (+) years. His final active duty assignment was Deputy Director for Regional Operations, J3, Joint Staff, the Pentagon where he managed the day to day global military risk for our Nation. In this capacity he worked closely with every combatant command, all uniformed Services, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and many interagency organizations to ensure the day to day needs of the warfighter were met.