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Attacks on Veterans

(This article first appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget plan levies an attack against our veterans who are elderly and disabled. His cuts aim to terminate Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits for veterans who are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, under the mistaken notion that a duplication of benefits exists.

IU provides financial support to veterans who are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment because of their service-connected disabilities. On the other hand, Social Security retirement benefits are based upon lifetime earnings. Young and battle-torn, unable to work fulltime; post-military, these veterans had little or no earnings for most of their adult lives. As a result, they contributed little or nothing to Social Security, and will be left with little or no Social Security retirement benefit – proving the administration’s justification meritless.

If passed, this budget will affect nearly every Vietnam-era veteran whose survival depends on their IU income. Haven’t they already endured enough atrocity in war and at home?

They aren’t the only veterans who will be affected; World War II, Korean War and others will suffer the consequences of this unconscionable action. Unemployable veterans have tripled to more than 300,000 since 2000. All are at risk of being left impoverished and homeless as seniors, if the Trump administration has its way.

This budget goes against the most basic military tenet, “never leave a fallen comrade behind.” Politicians, whether sitting on the left or right side of the aisle, or serving from the Oval Office, should never violate our nation’s promise to those who sacrificed. Nor should our heroes from yesteryears be discarded because there is a new generation of disabled veterans, and a rapidly expanding disability system that our government created when they sent our men and women off to war.

In response to public outcry, the White House marched out its supporters to vigorously defend its plans for 2018. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) declared that President Trump’s budget “prioritizes American taxpayers over bureaucrats in Washington.” Disenfranchising American veterans is not an American priority.

Mick Mulvaney, White House Budget Director also stepped up to the plate, proclaiming, “This is what Trump promised.”

Many will recall a different set of promises. While campaigning, President Trump listed veterans as a “top priority.” He frequently stated, “Veterans aren’t treated with the respect they deserve.” He pledged to “fire individuals who let vets down;” apparently all rhetoric. Who’s abandoning veterans now?

“We look at spending differently,” Mulvaney trumpeted. “We are not going to measure compassion by the number of programs or people on them.” This is very evident based on where they are pinning $46 billion in cuts.

Titled A New Foundation for American Greatness, the proposed budget is anything but “great.” In addition to dismantling veteran benefits, it guts domestic programs like student aid, food stamps and Medicaid. It slashes entitlements earned by federal workers - all while boosting military and border “security” spending. Neither a border wall nor military strikes in sovereign countries make us safer. To quote Stacy Bannerman, “A nation that does not take care of its war veterans has no business making new ones.”

We cannot permit these offenses nor stand idle while this administration shows its true spots and character. Their budget fails to honor our contract with veterans and flagrantly disregards the needs and earned entitlements of other Americans. They dine on lobster and steak with polished silver in fancy suits while their effort to balance the budget causes others to go hungry. That is not a solution. Silence grants permission and hoping this legislation is DOA will prove ineffective. Veterans have done so much for us. We must stand up for them.

– Human Relations Department