Pingree Opposes President Trump’s Budget Proposal to Cut Benefits for Retired Disabled Veterans
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joined colleagues in sending a letter yesterday to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin voicing opposition to a proposal in President Trump’s budget that eliminates Individual Unemployability benefits for severely disabled, retirement-age veterans. Some veterans could see a 64 percent cut in benefits.
“By no means were veterans spared from the deep, sweeping cuts in President Trump’s budget request. The overall increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs masks other cuts that would be very harmful to America’s veterans,” Pingree said. “The most egregious example is cutting off benefits in retirement for veterans who acquired severe disabilities during their service. I strongly oppose this provision that could force thousands of older veterans who made incredible sacrifices for the country into poverty. With our state’s aging population and high rates of military service, it could hit Maine very hard.”
Signed by 57 House members, the bipartisan letter can be viewed here.
Veterans who have disabilities due to their service receive monthly benefits based on their overall disability rating from the VA. If a veteran has a 60 percent or higher disability rating and is unable to maintain employment because of that disability, they are eligible for “Individual Unemployability” (IU) status. Veterans in this classification are compensated at the full 100% disabled rate.
These veterans are now able to receive the 100 percent IU benefit in retirement. President Trump’s budget would eliminate IU benefits for retirement-aged veterans—a $3.2 billion cut.
For example, a single veteran in IU status with a 70 percent disability rating currently receives $2,915 a month. Without IU, that veteran would receive only $1,338 a month. This represents a 54 percent benefit cut of $1,577 a month.
There would be little to cushion the blow. Since these veterans have been unable to work, they have missed years of paying into Social Security or other retirement plans. The proposal also jeopardizes other state and federal benefits that are available to veterans with IU status.
Currently, 225,000 veterans across the country depend on the IU program.