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KFF Well being Information: Republicans Vow To not Lower Veterans’ Advantages. However the Laws Suggests In any other case.

Might 12, 2023

KFF Well being Information: Republicans Vow To not Lower Veterans’ Advantages. However the Laws Suggests In any other case.

Addressing the impression of the Home GOP debt-ceiling invoice on veterans’ packages, “I’m useless severe that we’re not slicing veterans, and I imply it.”

– Rep. Mike Bost (R-Sick.), chair of the Home Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in a speech on the Home ground, April 26.

Home Republicans have set themselves a troublesome, if not unimaginable, activity in trying to make use of a standoff over the nation’s debt restrict to chop federal spending to what it was in 2022.

Retrenching to these price range ranges would require slicing 8% or 9% from the discretionary program facet of the ledger, which excludes entitlement packages corresponding to Social Safety and Medicare. Spending on these packages is required by regulation. Different spending is dictated by congressional appropriations yearly. The latter is up for debate right here.

Nonetheless, Home Republicans tried to string the needle with the Restrict, Save, Develop Act, which narrowly handed the Home on April 26. Its backers say the measure would deal with the debt ceiling whereas implementing “commonsense spending reforms.” The Home GOP management promised to spare packages which might be standard with Republican voters, such because the protection price range and veterans’ well being companies.

Democrats pounced on these doable cuts, particularly people who would have an effect on veterans. Their speaking factors appeared to infuriate Rep. Mike Bost (R-Sick.), chairman of the Home Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. On the Home ground, he drew a line within the sand.

“I’m useless severe that we’re not slicing veterans, and I imply it,” Bost mentioned. “The White Home and Democrats know that we will get our fiscal home so as whereas making certain our service members and veterans are taken care of, and but, with no regard for the impression of their phrases, they proceed to talk lies about how Home Republicans are slicing veterans’ advantages.”

Video of Rep. Bost’s remarks

With such an unequivocal assertion, we puzzled whether or not Bost was right. Can the GOP plan dramatically cut back federal spending with out taking away funding for veterans’ packages?

To grasp this totally, two issues have to be examined: the price range projections that counsel the GOP plan would end in trims to veterans’ packages, and what’s spelled out within the laws.

Digging Into the Numbers

Democrats and businesses inside the Biden administration, such because the Division of Veterans Affairs, seemed on the GOP invoice and did their very own math to find out budgetary estimates.

As a result of the invoice is usually a listing of common spending classes, the estimates mirror uniform cuts to discretionary spending. And, as a result of there isn’t any particular language within the Home-passed measure to exempt help for veterans’ packages, the VA assumed a full, 22% minimize for fiscal yr 2024 in contrast with 2023 funding and estimated reductions as excessive as $29.7 billion.

That would translate to 13 million fewer well being care appointments for veterans and important cuts to learn funds, staffing, and clinic development, based on the company.

Bost’s communications director, Kathleen McCarthy, mentioned, nevertheless, that Democrats are knowingly making a bogus assumption that cuts will probably be utilized evenly, and pointed to public statements by Republican leaders who’ve insisted veterans will probably be spared.

“We guarantee that our veterans and our service members are taken care of,” Home Speaker Kevin McCarthy mentioned in a speech on the New York Inventory Change final month.

“We’ll present for our nationwide protection, handle veterans, and safe our border — all whereas decreasing total spending,” Home Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) mentioned when Republicans unveiled their plan.

However delivering on that promise would necessitate even deeper cuts to different packages.

Of the $1.7 trillion discretionary price range spent in 2022, a Congressional Funds Workplace evaluation launched in March discovered that $113 billion went to sure veterans’ advantages and $751 billion coated protection.

Shielding protection and veterans’ packages would drive Republicans to pay attention all of the cuts on the remaining discretionary price range, which the Middle on Funds and Coverage Priorities discovered would quantity to 23% cuts, an quantity just like the administration’s estimate.

Why This Debate Issues

Veterans’ funding has emerged as some of the hotly contested points within the debt dialogue.

The White Home tweeted about Republican cuts to veterans, prompting an offended response from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) echoed Bost’s declare in a listening to Thursday, accusing Democrats of “lies.” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) shot again that Home Republicans voted down Democratic amendments that might have explicitly exempted veterans.

The GOP additionally may face opposition from inside its ranks. To realize their objectives with out affecting veterans, Home Republicans must discover different reductions supported by practically your complete caucus. Opposition from 5 or extra members would doom the laws.

The state of affairs is especially dicey as a result of sure Republicans oppose slicing among the packages prone to be focused — corresponding to tasks of their districts — and different Republicans favor even deeper cuts.

Greater than 20 veterans’ teams have signed a letter opposing the GOP plan.

The nation’s largest veterans’ organizations have mentioned they won’t take a place on the laws to keep away from the looks of partisanship. However representatives for a few of these teams mentioned though they imagine Republican leaders genuinely need to defend veterans, they perceive it’s arduous for such a narrowly divided physique to make ensures.

“Mike Bost and the leaders might not need to minimize veterans, however they might need to acquiesce to at least one or two or three or extra of their members to get the factor carried out,” mentioned Patrick Murray, director of nationwide legislative service for the Veterans of International Wars, referring to elevating the debt ceiling whereas decreasing spending.

Although different giant veterans’ teams declined to touch upon the document, representatives highlighted doable cuts to packages they think about worthwhile that some lawmakers have declared pointless or wasteful.

“We’ve heard individuals say they’re not going to chop spending, however then we’ve heard individuals say they’re going to chop wasteful spending,” Murray mentioned. “Properly, that’s subjective.”

One other Potential Land Mine

Veterans’ organizations are additionally apprehensive a couple of doable rollback of the landmark — and costly — Honoring Our PACT Act, which gives for the care and remediation for veterans uncovered to poisonous substances abroad. The regulation didn’t take impact till this yr.

Republican lawmakers preserve that they’ll make the numbers work to protect the regulation.

However the Home-passed debt-ceiling measure does particularly mandate one important minimize, as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the highest Democrat on the Home Appropriations Committee, identified. The GOP invoice rescinds any unspent funding handed in payments on covid-19 reduction, together with veterans’ funding. When Bost wrote to the VA on the finish of March asking about unspent covid cash, his workplace estimated some $4.5 billion was up for grabs.

DeLauro, in denouncing the GOP invoice and apparently utilizing newer numbers, mentioned the rescission could be nearer to $2 billion.

“That may be a straight-up, ‘we’re-taking-that-back’ minimize,” mentioned Murray.

Bost’s workplace caught to its facet of the road within the sand, suggesting the cash, as soon as rescinded, may very well be repurposed for various veterans’ packages, however famous that might be as much as appropriators.

Our Ruling

Bost claimed that Republicans weren’t slicing veterans’ advantages even because the textual content of their invoice to boost the nation’s debt ceiling would roll again all discretionary spending.

Drafting a slimmed-down price range that spares veterans is not any straightforward activity. Most notably, the VA represents one of many largest items of the pie by way of discretionary spending, and, within the Home-passed Restrict, Save, Develop Act, no language was included to particularly defend it.

The Home GOP plan does embrace a selected price range rescission for unspent covid reduction funds. That interprets to $2 billion coming from the VA. Whereas Congress may restore that cash sooner or later — and it’s a comparatively small portion of the VA price range — it might end in a discount in spending for veterans because the proposal stands.

Home Republicans like Bost have mentioned repeatedly they intend to guard this key constituency. However up to now, such protections usually are not evident on paper.

We charge Bost’s assertion as Largely False.

Authentic Publication date: Might 9, 2023

KFF Well being Information is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points and is without doubt one of the core working packages at KFF—an impartial supply of well being coverage analysis, polling, and journalism. Study extra about KFF.



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