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Does a new CBO report recommend major cuts to veterans disability benefits?

Answer:

The short answer is NO. Here’s what you need to know.

On August 7, 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report titled Veterans' Disability Compensation: Trends and Policy Options. The CBO is a non-partisan agency within the legislative branch of the U.S. government that provides budget and economic information to Congress. As a general rule, CBO produces reports at the request of a member of Congress. In this case, the report was requested by Rep. Michael Michaud (ME-2) in his capacity as ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. We reached out to Michaud’s top committee staffer for a response and here is the email we and the other top VSOs received:

I’ve gotten a few questions regarding a CBO report recently released that looks at veterans disability payments. There has been some misinformation about the timing and reasoning behind the request.

This report was requested in March 2013 by Ranking Member Michaud because he wanted to ensure disabled veterans could be fairly and appropriately compensated amid the economic downturn, and amidst discussion of long-term sequestration.  This can be seen quite clearly in his request letter to CBO.  In it, Mr. Michaud stated, “To ensure that disabled veterans are adequately compensated in this era of fiscal austerity, I am requesting that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) undertake a series of studies that analyze VA’s disability system.”

The content of the report comes from CBO, and neither the Ranking Member nor staff were given advanced notice or provided a summary of the content.  Please be assured, the Ranking Member is not taking this information and translating it into any actionable policy.  He supports ensuring disabled veterans, family members and survivors receive all the benefits and services they have earned and to which they are entitled.

I’ve attached a few talking points that help answer some questions on this matter. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for more information.

Bottom line:  The CBO report does not propose or recommend cuts. It just looks at trend lines and presents policy options for Congressional consideration. Ranking Member Michaud, in the March 2013 request letter to CBO, asked that the report be done by August 2013, a year ago. CBO delivered it a year late, in the wake of the recent VA wait times scandal and just after President Obama signed the $17 billion new VA Reform bill. It’s also an election year. In other words, this report is DOA.

The American Legion, and the other VSOs, oppose any reduction in benefits and we will work to ensure this report stays where it belongs. On some shelf somewhere gathering dust.

Sincerely,

Jeff Steele

Assistant Director, Legislative Division

 

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