Social Welfare Squeeze Places Veterans’ Health, Retirement Benefits at Stake
Published September 23, 2011
Under severe pressure to cut down spending, especially on social welfare programs, Congress is likely to look at health and pension benefits of military retirees closely in the near future. Thus far, it doesn’t seem like California veterans benefits lawyers or veterans’ groups need to be too concerned. Social Security and Medicare are taking up most of lawmakers’ attention right now.
However, the fact is that health benefits and retirement pensions for veterans now cost the U.S. government approximately $100 billion a year. Traditionally, lawmakers have avoided touching veterans’ benefits, because of public hostility to measures that affect our troops. These sentiments have increased during the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have already taken a heavy human toll. However, there is no guarantee that these benefits will not be subjected to increased scrutiny as the administration finds itself under increased pressure to reduce spending.
This fall, a bipartisan joint congressional committee will issue recommendations to reduce deficits, and if these recommendations are adopted by Congress, the Department of Defense will find itself in the position of having to look for ways to save as much as $900 billion over the next 10 years. If that happens, the Department of Defense will likely be left with no option but to attack health and pension benefits for military retirees. The Department of Defense has already indicated that it is concerned about this possibility.
Fortunately, there is likely to be much opposition to any plans to reduce health and retirement benefits for veterans. After all, the prospect of benefits is one of the motivating factors for many of our veterans, who sacrifice some of the best years of their lives to fight for our freedom. However, troops are already being withdrawn from Iraq, and as withdrawal continues, troop requirements will reduce, and the need to dangle retirement benefits as a carrot before applicants, could also drop. In short, there may be fewer obstacles to cutting health and pension benefits for veterans in the future.