American Legion opposes elimination of VA’s Individual Unemployability program

On May 24, Department of Veterans Affairs officials defended a proposal in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget to strip millions of dollars in unemployment benefits from elderly veterans as responsible reforms to the department’s growing budget. Opponents of the plan – including The American Legion – have promised to fight the idea.
Up to 225,000 veterans over the age of 60, at least 7,000 of whom are over 80, could be impacted by the change.
Under current rules, the Individual Unemployability (IU) program awards payments at the 100 percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if the actual rating is less than that. Administration officials want to stop those payments once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, arguing those individuals should no longer qualify for unemployment benefits. Veterans who cannot collect Social Security would be exempt.
According to the VA, for veterans who aren’t already of retirement age, the change could largely be offset by their new Social Security payouts.
For veterans already receiving both, it will mean a sudden loss of a significant income source; IU payouts can total more than $22,000 a year. VA Secretary David Shulkin said the move, which is expected to save $3.2 billion next year alone, is proof that “we’re trying to refine our approaches to use our resources efficiently;” however, veterans’ advocates called it an unconscionable attack on older veterans.
American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt released a statement expressing extreme disappointment in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget for the VA. “The administration’s budget for the VA would effectively lower the earnings of our most vulnerable veterans by reducing or eliminating disability payments from veterans who are the most in need,” Schmidt said. “This is absolutely unacceptable to us.
“We hope all veterans, families and supporters of veterans call their elected officials and demand a well-functioning, properly-funded, transparent, and accountable VA, and a presidential budget that fully supports veterans’ needs.”
Legion’s 100th anniversary commemorative coin
On May 18, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced H.R. 2519, The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, with 102 original co-sponsors. On the same day, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., introduced a Senate companion measure, S. 1182, with 28 co-sponsors. These bills would require the U.S. Mint to strike a Legion 100th anniversary commemorative coin. The House bill now includes 113 co-sponsors, and the Senate one has 30 co-sponsors, thanks to the work of the Legislative Division.
More co-sponsors are being sought.