A proposal to cut $4.5 billion from Veterans Affairs Department health programs to reduce government spending has earned a quick, sharp rebuke from major veterans groups.
Proposed by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the freeze in veterans health care funding — along with a cut in disability compensation for veterans also receiving Social Security disability benefits — are part of a $400 billion package of spending cuts that the tea party leader says could be enacted to avoid increasing the $14.3 trillion cap on government borrowing.
Disabled American Veterans called Bachmann’s ideas “ill-advised,” “nothing short of heartless” and “wrong-headed.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars said she was “totally out of step with America’s commitment to our veterans.”
Veterans for Common Sense said they were “outraged” that her proposal “would leave veterans twisting in the wind.”
“It is unconscionable that while our nation is at war, someone would even think of forcing our wounded warriors to sacrifice even more than they already have,” said David Gorman of the DAV. “Their injuries and disabilities were the result of their service to the nation, and our nation must not shirk its responsibilities toward them. How do you tell a veteran who has lost a limb that he or she has not sacrificed enough? Yet Rep. Bachmann wants to do just that.”
Bachmann’s proposal would result in a reduction of up to $2,224 a month in veterans’ disability compensation for a veteran who also receives Social Security Disability Income, known as SSDI. Additionally, it would freeze veterans’ health care funding at current levels.
Richard Eubank, VFW national commander, said his organization will work to stop the proposal. “No way, no how, will we let this proposal get any traction in Congress,” he said.
“There are certain things you do not do when our nation is at war, and at the top of that list is not caring for our wounded and disabled servicemen and women when they return home,” Eubank said. “The day this nation can’t afford to take care of her veterans is the day this nation should quit creating them.”
Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, who first spotted the proposal on Bachmann’s official congressional website, said 10,000 new veterans a month are seeking treatment from VA.
“In the middle of this dramatically increasing need at VA to care for our veterans, comes Rep. Michele Bachmann,” he said, calling her efforts to cut veterans funding just as combat operations appear to be winding down in Iraq is similar to cuts after the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War that left VA struggling to care for veterans.
DAV’s Gorman said capping veterans’ health care funding “will not only freeze out sick and disabled veterans seeking care, it will also end up costing the federal government even more money.”
“With the number of veterans seeking health care rising, the effect of a freeze would be to either block enrollment of veterans, many of them just returning from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, or to ration care to currently enrolled veterans, including disabled veterans who have relied on VA dating back to World War II,” Gorman said.
The Obama administration is prepared to cut federal spending, but not like this, said White House spokesman Shin Inouye.
“While we need to make tough choices across the federal government to get our deficits under control to be competitive in the global economy, we should do so in a way that upholds the sacred trust our nation has with its veterans, troops and military families,” Inouye said.