Seems like a week can’t go by without hearing some new deficit reduction plan with veterans’ benefits in the crosshairs of politicians. All the while, these same politicians appear more than willing for us to “help liberate” one oil country after another. Conflicts like these are great for making headlines and disabled veterans, but they also take from the limited tax dollars needed to care for veterans after the conflicts end.
Recently, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann backed off her plan to cut $4.5 billion of federal veterans’ benefits. But, Wisconsin’s famous Governor, Scott Walker, is looking to cut state funds for homeless veterans by 53 percent and overall benefits by over $30 million.
Texas is proposing a 20 percent cut for the Texas Veterans Commission(TVC), totaling over $3 million of their current $14 million budget. TVC filed over 170,000 veterans’ claims that resulted in over $2 billion being paid out by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This cutback could result in a loss or delay of $760 million in veterans’ benefits and a loss in state sales tax revenue of more than $26 million.
California Governor Jerry Brown recently proposed a $10 million cut for another agency that helps returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in acquiring federal VA benefits. According to lobbyist Pete Conaty, for every $1 spent to get a veteran his or her benefits, the veteran receives $100 in benefits. This is money that stays in the local economy where the veteran lives. It doesn’t go to foreign aid or to some Wall Street bank. It goes to the veteran’s local hardware store or coffee shop, wherever she spends her money.
Perspective. In California, 30,000 veterans return to civilian life every year, many of them with injuries and questions about their benefits. Prior to the current wars, veterans had a 10-day wait to talk with a benefits counselor in person. Now, it takes 6 to 8 weeks for an appointment. With these cuts, that delay could be even longer. States with similar cuts will impact veterans everywhere. But, what makes no sense is, that by cutting the up front money, these same states could lose even more millions in tax revenue.
But this all may make sense on a broader spectrum, even though the logic is skewed. There seems to be a recent political trend to cut federal benefits for everyone. Unfortunately, as in Texas, veterans benefits programs are being cut at a disproportionate rate within the state governments. When attempts to cut veterans’ benefits show to be unpopular on the national front, political parties appear to be turning to the states to make up the difference. Either way you skin the cat, the Department of Veterans Affairs could be paying out less money in benefits to veterans who are truly entitled to them over the long term.