This isn’t how to honor veterans

5/30/17
 
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from CNN,
5/26/17:

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump, who never served in the military, talked a big game about his respect for veterans and what he would do for them. His campaign speeches were full of praise and promises that under his administration, those who served would face a better future than they would under any Democrat. While continually blasting President Barack Obama for failing to do enough to assist veterans who struggled after they returned home, Trump promised to “take care of our vets like you’ve never been taken care of before.” On the surface, it looks like President Trump intends to deliver. While cutting almost everything else in sight, he wants Congress to increase the Department of Veterans Affairs budget by $4.4 billion, a 6% hike from fiscal 2017.

But veterans might want to take a closer look at this. The budget imposes several significant reductions, some direct and others indirect, that would have detrimental consequences for those who have served. Trump’s proposed budget would end the Individual Unemployability benefit payments to retirement-age veterans. There are almost 225,000 veterans who count on this program to earn 100% disabled rate payouts when they can’t find work as a result of military injuries, despite not being fully disabled.

Other cuts indicate that the President has left some of his campaign promises behind. His proposed budget also would “round down” cost-of-living adjustments by approximately $20 million next year and $2.7 billion over the decade. The proposal places a cap on GI Bill tuition payments to flight schools, and gets rid of the Limb Loss Resource Center, which helps veterans who have been injured and their families who care for them.
Funding for the Paralysis Resource Center and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness will also be pulled.

Just as detrimental are the levels of funding for mental health care and the homeless assistance programs — two vital areas of policy, given the fallout from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — which would remain the same without any boost in funding. A major problem for the Department of Veterans Affairs has been that the agency continues to work with an old infrastructure that needs a major overhaul and improvement. The answer to the long-wait lines and inadequate services is not to slowly chip away at essential programs but to provide support to make them even better. This budget won’t achieve that goal. Four months into his presidency, Trump has not yet delivered on his promised 24-hour hotline for veterans.

Many of the “savings” spelled out in the budget proposal are intended to facilitate the continuation and expansion of the controversial Choice Card program. Introduced in 2014, it allows veterans to obtain medical care outside the VA health care system. Critics have argued [against] this program of privatization.

The administration’s budget proposal aims squarely at the heartland of the nation and the veterans whose families are part of these communities. Veterans already suffered from President Trump’s executive order for a 90-day federal hiring freeze, given that they constitute one-third of the federal workforce.

On this Memorial Day weekend, President Trump should think about what those who have survived wars need from his administration.

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