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HomeHealth & FitnessRepublicans vow not to cut veterans benefits. But the legislation suggests otherwise.

Republicans vow not to cut veterans benefits. But the legislation suggests otherwise.

On the impact of the House GOP debt ceiling bill on veterans programs, “I mean it, we’re not going to cut veterans, I mean it.”

represent. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Boster (R-Illinois) speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives on April 26.

House Republicans have set themselves a daunting, if not impossible, task of trying to capitalize on the impasse over the national debt ceiling. Federal spending cuts to 2022 levels.

Reductions to these budget levels would require 8% or 9% cuts from the ledger’s discretionary program side, which excludes entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Spending on these items is required by law. Other expenditures are determined annually by congressional appropriations. The latter is up for debate here.

Still, House Republicans are trying to go head-to-head with the Limit, Savings, Growth Act, which narrowly passed the House on April 26. Its supporters said the measure would address the debt ceiling while enforcing “common-sense spending reforms”. House Republican leadership has pledged to preserve programs popular with Republican voters, such as the defense budget and veterans’ health care.

Democrats slammed the potential cuts, especially those that would affect veterans. Their talking points appeared to irritate Rep. Mike Boster (R-Illinois), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. In the House, he drew a line in the sand.

“I mean it, we’re not going to lay off veterans, I mean it,” Boster said. “The White House and the Democrats know we can put our finances in order while making sure our military members and veterans are taken care of, yet, regardless of the impact of their rhetoric, they continue to lie about how House Republicans are cutting veterans Military benefits.”

(Credit: C-SPAN)

Such a clear statement, we wonder if Bost is right . Can the GOP Plan Slash Federal Spending Without Defunding Veterans Programs?

To fully understand this, two things need to be examined: the budgetary projections that indicate the Republican plan will result in cuts to veterans programs, and the detailed provisions in the legislation.

Drilling into numbers

Democrats and agencies within the Biden administration, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, studied the Republican bill and did their own calculations to determine the budget estimate.

Since the bill is primarily a list of general spending categories, the estimate reflects uniform cuts to discretionary spending. And, because there is no specific language in the House-passed measure to exempt support for veterans programs, the VA assumes a 22 percent cut in FY 2024 compared to 2023 funding, an estimated cut of as much as $29.7 billion.

According to the agency, it could mean 13 million fewer healthcare appointments for veterans and slash benefits payments, staffing and clinic construction.

Bost’s communications director, however, Kathleen McCarthy said Democrats are deliberately making the false assumption that the cuts will be implemented evenly, pointing to public statements by Republican leaders insists that veterans will not be affected.

“We make sure our veterans and service members are taken care of,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in a speech at the New York Stock Exchange last month.

“We will provide for our national defense, take House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kay Granger (R-Texas) said as Republicans unveiled their plan.

Of the $1.7 trillion in discretionary budget to be spent in 2022, a Congressional Budget Office analysis released in March found that $113 billion went to certain veterans benefits, $751 billion for defense.

Protecting defense and veterans programs would force Republicans to focus all cuts on remaining discretionary budget, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found would cut the 23%, with government estimates.

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Why this debate matters

Funding for veterans has become one of the most hotly debated issues in the debt discussion.

The White House tweeted about Republican cuts to veterans, prompting Senator Tom Cotton (R -Ark.), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) echoed Bost’s claims at a hearing on Thursday, accusing Democrats of “lying.” Rep. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) countered that House Republicans had voted down a Democratic amendment that would have explicitly exempted veterans.

The GOP could also face opposition from within itself .To achieve their goals without affecting veterans, House Republicans must find other cuts supported by nearly the entire caucus. Opposition by five or more members would doom the legislation.

The situation is particularly volatile as some Republicans oppose cuts to some programs that could be targeted — such as programs in their districts — while others favor even deeper cuts.

More than 20 veterans groups have signed a letter opposing the Republican plan.

America’s largest veterans organization said they would not accept a position on the legislation to avoid partisanship. But representatives of some of these groups said that while they believed Republican leaders sincerely wanted to protect veterans, they understood it would be difficult for such a divided body to make assurances.

“Mike Bo Steer and leaders may not want to cut veterans, but they may have to acquiesce to one or two or three or more members to get it done,” said Patrick Murray, director of the National Veterans of Foreign Wars Legislative Service, referring to What is needed is to raise the debt ceiling while reducing spending.

While other large veterans groups declined to comment on the record, representatives highlighted possible cuts to programs they deem worthwhile, which some lawmakers have declared unnecessary or wasteful.

“We hear people saying they’re not going to cut spending, but then we hear people saying they’re going to cut wasteful spending,” Murray said. “Well, that’s subjective.”

Another potential mine


Veteran’s organizations are also concerned about the possible repeal of the landmark and costly Respect Our PACT Act, which provides protection for veterans exposed to toxic substances overseas Provide care and remedies. The law didn’t take effect until this year.

Republican lawmakers insist they can make the numbers work to uphold the law.

But the House passed the debt — and as House Appropriations Committee Democratic leader Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut pointed out, the cap measure does clearly establish a substantial reduce. The Republican bill eliminates any unspent funds passed in the covid-19 relief bill, including veterans funds. When Bost wrote to the VA in late March asking about unspent covid funding, his office estimated that roughly $4.5 billion was up for grabs.

DeLauro, apparently using updated numbers in his denunciation of the GOP bill, said the revocation would be closer to $2 billion.

Boster’s office stood its ground, suggesting that the money, once reversed, could be redirected to a different veterans program, but noted that it would be up to the appropriators.

Our decision

Boster claims Republicans are not cutting spending on veterans’ benefits, even though the text of their bill to raise the national debt ceiling would reduce all discretionary spending.

Drafting a lean budget that provides benefits to veterans is no easy task. Most notably, veterans represent one of the largest pies in terms of discretionary spending, and the Limit, Save, Grow Act that passed the House contained no language specifically protecting it.

House GOP plan does include specific budget rollbacks for unspent covid relief funds. That’s the equivalent of $2 billion from the Department of Veterans Affairs. While Congress could restore that money in the future — and it’s a relatively small percentage of the VA budget — as proposed, it would lead to lower spending for veterans.

House Republicans like Bost have repeatedly said they intend to protect the key district. But so far, that protection isn’t apparent on paper.

We rated Bost’s statement as “Mostly False”.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy NYSE Speech April 17, 2023

House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger on Constraints, Savings, Growth Statement of Bill, April 26, 2023

“Putting Limits, Savings, Growth Act into Context”, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, April 25, 2023

Letter from Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonough to House Democrats, March 21, 2023

Statement from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) on Veterans Spending, 2023 April 26, 2021

Default Revocation Analysis On America Bill, House Appropriations Committee Estimates of Veteran Cuts

American Rescue Plan Act, March 11, 2021 (Veteran Appropriations on p. 110)

Limit, Save, Grow Act, sponsored by Rep. Jodey C. Arrington (R-Texas), focused on April 26, 2023 Date

MAX Information and Reports (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Users): FY 2023 – SF 133 Budget Execution and Budget Resources Report, April 20, 2023

“How much is the U.S. government spending this year?” U.S. Department of the Treasury, accessed May 1, 2023

“Discretionary Spending for Fiscal Year 2022: Infographic,” Congressional Budget Office, 2023 Mar. 28

Veterans Service Organizations to Members of Congress, Apr. 25, 2023

“Many Dissatisfied with Government’s Spending Priorities,” AP -NORC Poll March 29, 2023

“House Republicans’ pledge to cut funding programs to 2022 levels will have serious implications, especially for non-defense programs,” Budget and Center for Policy Priorities, March 25, 2023

“VFW Inquires Speaker House’s Commitment to PACT Act” (Letter), April 25, 2023

Background email discussion with Office of Rep. Mike Boster (R-Ill.), April 28, 2023

Email exchange with House Appropriations Committee Democratic staff, 2023 April 28, 2023

Telephone interview with Patrick Murray, National Legislative Service Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars, April 28, 2023

Rep. Mike Boss Te (R-Ill.), C-SPAN House Speech on Veterans Program, April 26, 2023



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