Retired service members are criticizing the debt ceiling legislation that the Republican-controlled House passed this week, warning that it will lead to cuts in key programs and services for Veterans.
The House passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act with a vote of 217-215, despite the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) warning of a drastic 22 percent cut to its budget under the bill.
The legislation, unlikely to pass a Democrat-controlled Senate and is opposed by President Biden, caps all new spending at fiscal 2022 levels, amounting to a $130 billion cut to non-defense spending across federal agencies, including the VA.
According to a VA press release, this would result in a loss of 81,000 jobs in the department’s health services, 30 million fewer outpatient visits for Veterans, and an increase of disability backlogs by 134,000 claims, among other concerns.
Sarah Streyder, the executive director of nonpartisan group Secure Families Initiative, which represents active-duty families but coordinates closely with the VA for client services, stated that there are already backlogs and waitlists at the VA that would be further exacerbated by the GOP budget proposal.
She warned that whether the bill passes or not, the “harm is already being done” and the legislation is a “huge ding in morale” for the military, service members and Veterans.
Republicans have denied that VA services will be impacted, but without explaining how a non-defense discretionary cap would not affect the department.
Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, stated that “Democrats have spread false claims” about the budget and that “Republicans have always prioritized Veterans in our spending to ensure Veterans have access to the care, benefits, and services they have earned.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) introduced the Limit, Save, Grow Act this month amid a battle with Biden over the nation’s debt ceiling and what he calls out-of-control government spending.
The McCarthy proposal is a counter to the president’s $6 trillion spending plan for 2024 released last month, which Biden says would also reduce the national deficit by trillions of dollars through new taxes.
In addition to non-defense cuts, McCarthy’s bill would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through the end of next March, whichever happens first, and cap annual spending increases to 1 percent.
More than 20 Veterans groups sent a letter to Congress protesting McCarthy’s budget, saying it would “leave many Veterans resources open to cuts, potentially undoing years of progress VA has made.”
“Our nation’s Veterans, caregivers, and survivors have already sacrificed too much,” the letter reads. “Our country must keep our promises and provide them with the best healthcare and benefits possible.
The Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 does not spell out the necessary protections and puts these benefits at risk.” House Democrats joined Veterans group VoteVets outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday ahead of the vote, highlighting the impact cuts would have on Veterans.
Rick Hegdahl, a national outreach director with VoteVets, said he served in the Iraq war and relies on the VA for “much of my healthcare,” including medications and doctor visits.
“The cuts to Veterans healthcare that Kevin McCarthy and extreme Republicans are proposing will be devastating to Veterans like myself,” he said.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who sponsored legislation last year that expanded benefits for Veterans exposed to toxins, said the House budget proposal fails to honor that legislation.
Takano accused House Republicans of “holding Veterans benefits hostage” in the budget fight. “Despite their patriotic platitudes, their cliché expressions thanking Veterans for their service,
The House vote on the debt ceiling and the subsequent Veterans Affairs (VA) budget cuts has sparked concerns among many Veterans groups and advocates.
They are warning that the proposed cuts could severely affect critical programs and services for retired service members.
The VA has sounded the alarm that the legislation, if passed, would lead to a 22.0% budget cut.
This would result in a reduction of key services, such as 30 million fewer outpatient visits for Veterans and an increase of disability backlogs by 134,000 claims, among other concerns.
The proposed legislation would cap all new spending at fiscal 2022 levels, resulting in a $130 billion cut to non-defense spending across federal agencies, including the VA.
However, the bill is unlikely to pass a Democrat-controlled Senate and is opposed by President Biden.
More than 20 Veterans groups have sent a letter to Congress this week protesting McCarthy’s budget, saying it would “leave many Veterans resources open to cuts, potentially undoing years of progress VA has made.”
House Democrats joined Veterans group VoteVets outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday ahead of the vote, highlighting the impact cuts would have on Veterans.
Many Veterans are concerned that the proposed cuts could undermine the VA’s ability to deliver on its promise of providing adequate care, benefits, and services to those who have served the country.
With the debt ceiling negotiations ongoing, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be and how it will impact Veterans and their families
The substantial caseload burden faced by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals is primarily attributed to recurring cases sent back to the board for reevaluation after