FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Hoellwarth
National Communications Director
AMVETS (American Veterans)
AMVETS National Headquarters, June 14, 2017 – Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin backed away Wednesday from a proposal to cut Individual Unemployability benefits for disabled veterans during a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing that followed weeks of efforts by AMVETS to kill the measure in its crib.
“As I began to listen to veterans and their concerns and [Veterans Service Organizations] in particular, it became clear that this would be hurting some veterans. This would be a takeaway from veterans who can’t afford to have those benefits taken away,” Shulkin told the Senate committee. “I am not going to be supporting policies that hurt veterans, so I would look forward to figuring out how we can do things better.”
Shulkin’s testimony directly follows an entire day during which AMVETS leadership visited all 100 Senate offices to advocate against the cuts and a letter signed by 57 members of Congress sent to Shulkin Monday citing and underscoring AMVETS’s concerns about rescinding benefits to 225,000 of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans.
The VA’s initial budget recommendation proposed to eliminate the Individual Employability benefit for veterans aged 65 and older. This benefit currently pays 60- to 90-percent disabled veterans at the 100 percent disabled rate if their service-connected disability prevents them from working. The justification for this proposal has been that veterans 65 are eligible for Social Security instead. But the veterans receiving this benefit are precisely those who have been unable to work because of their service-connected disability and are therefore able to collect very little from Social Security, if anything at all.
As a result of AMVETS’s advocacy and as of the end of Wednesday’s hearing, this change now seems unlikely to ever become law.
In conversation with Veterans Service Organization representatives toward the end of the hearing, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson referred to the proposed cuts to Individual Unemployability benefits as “a non-starter” and acknowledged that “anyone else will pretty much tell you it’s a non-starter, too.”
AMVETS is the nation’s largest and oldest Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization that is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more than 70 years. amvets.org