Elderly Vets Could Face Benefits Cut Under Trump Budget

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin defended Wednesday a proposal in President Donald Trump’s federal budget plan that would cut a benefit paying thousands of dollars annually to disabled elderly veterans.

The issue involved Shulkin’s push for an expanded choice program allowing veterans to opt for private care and the offset from veterans’ benefits to pay for more choice.

The proposal on the tradeoff to pay for the $2.9 billion choice expansion aroused the concerns of veterans service organizations. The vets’ groups were also concerned about the long-term impact on VA care from the renewed emphasis on private care.

“We are very concerned the administration’s request to make the Veterans Choice Program a permanent, mandatory program could lead to a gradual erosion of the VA health care system,” the Veterans of Foreign Wars said in written testimony to a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

One of the proposed offsets for the choice program would be a new age restriction on veterans’ eligibility for the VA’s Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit.

Veterans eligible now for the program have a 60 to 100 percent disability rating but are all paid at the 100 percent rate because a service-connected disability makes them unable to work. The budget proposal would cut off the payments once the veteran reached the minimum age for Social Security.

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