The Republican-controlled House approved legislation last week to boost health care spending for veterans and provide more money to compensate record numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans claiming service-related disabilities as they return home.
The 407-12 vote reflected the traditional bipartisan support for veterans in Congress and efforts by Republicans to exempt veterans’ programs from cuts felt by other domestic programs.
Roughly half of the $148 billion measure is for veterans’ pensions and disability payments over which lawmakers have little practical control. That includes a 20 percent, $10.5 billion increase for such payments.
The Associated Press reported earlier that 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. About 1.2 million veterans are expected to file for disability claims next year, on top of a backlog of almost 1 million applicants.
The veterans’ measure is perhaps the most popular of the annual spending bills that Congress must pass. It had been expected to pass easily despite a White House veto threat that was issued over moves by GOP leaders to break faith with last summer’s budget deal by cutting overall funding for agency operating budgets by $19 billion, almost 2 percent.
The veto promise didn’t find fault with the funding levels in the veterans’ measure itself. Instead, it said the GOP moves on spending would force deep cuts to domestic programs like education, research and health care in subsequent legislation.
We will keep you apprised of this legislation as it makes it way to the Senate and White House.