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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Restore cuts to benefits for veterans

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Defense Spending,Budgets and Deficits,Veterans

Nobody understands the virtue of sacrifice more than America's veterans and military personnel. Politicians often talk about sacrifice, but usually, they are asking for someone else to bear the burden.

Shamefully, Congress's recent budget vote epitomizes this habit, as they slash the benefits of our nation's veterans without making the harder reforms needed to restore fiscal balance to our nation.

The cost savings that will be realized through cuts to scheduled veterans' benefits will total roughly $6 billion over 10 years, or $600 million per year. That's slightly more than what taxpayers contributed last year in loan guarantees for private citizens to buy beachfront property in Hawaii, according to Sen. Tom Coburn's 2013 Wastebook. Meanwhile, our federal deficit has surpassed $17 trillion, and given our current course of deficit spending and the unfunded liabilities of our nation's entitlement programs, that mountain of debt will continue to grow.

Although the $6 billion taken from our nation’s veterans will do little to correct America’s perilous fiscal course, it will do immense damage to the lives of those Americans who have already sacrificed life and limb for all of us.

The impact of this reduction will cost a veteran household up to $124,000 over two decades. That can be the difference between being able to afford a home, put children through college or cover medical expenses that have already dramatically increased with cuts to the military's health program, Tricare. In short, it is an assault on the quality of life those who have already paid the price of freedom from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan.

Veterans aren’t alone in being asked to sacrifice by a Congress that doesn’t seem to understand the word or to be able to get its priorities straight. Under the current federal budget, the Department of Defense will face more than $1 trillion in cuts. These cuts will reduce budgets for operations, logistics and support, with impacts that will be felt by military personnel from the home front to the battlefield.

Most importantly, these cuts reduce manpower budgets — and as such, many of our nation’s heroes will soon be unemployed with no hope for continued military careers even as the need for a strong military grows in an uncertain world.

In singling out our men and women in uniform for even more sacrifice — note that the civilian federal workforce is not being asked to endure similar cuts or reductions in benefits — Congress and the president are turning their backs on military families and failing to uphold their commitment to those who have served their nation honorably.

But our leaders in Washington can’t be bothered to root out waste and fraud that plague our nation’s programs and drain resources away from the deserving while piling on debt. Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars are identified as going toward wasteful, sometimes even ridiculous programs. Why are we asking veterans to sacrifice again while the rest of the government’s wasteful spending is on autopilot?

If Congress truly wants to address our fiscal crisis and get America back on the path to prosperity, veterans will support the need for shared sacrifice and lead the way, as we have since the founding of our nation. But Congress needs to make substantive spending reforms throughout the federal budget. Until then, lawmakers should restore these cuts to veterans benefits as quickly as possible.

James Ferguson is a retired Marine Corps officer from Alexandria, Va., and a member of Concerned Veterans for America. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.
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