Via Military Times:
President Donald Trump’s “taxpayer focused” budget for fiscal 2018 includes smaller cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and eliminating those adjustments for some federal civilian retirees altogether.
The controversial suggestions are likely to be met with opposition from outside advocates and some lawmakers, but White House officials insist the moves are part of a broader strategy to balance the budget without sacrificing essential government services.
“(In past budgets) we haven’t put ourselves in the role of going back to taxpayers and say, ‘Here’s a program that is worth spending your money on,’” said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “These are the programs we can justify.
“I can look a taxpayer in the eye and say, ‘I need your tax money so I can help a veteran who lost two legs in the Middle East.’ But we’re not doing that for a long list of social programs that have little impact.”
The $1.1 trillion spending plan includes $54 billion more for the Defense Department than is currently allowed under congressionally approved spending caps, and a $4 billion boost in Veteran Affairs discretionary spending from current levels.
To offset those costs and balance the budget over the next decade, the proposal calls for significant cuts in State Department funding, foreign aid accounts and a host of other non-military programs.
It also includes the cost-of-living adjustment changes. The White House plan would extend the practice of rounding down veterans payouts to the nearest whole dollar, trimming a few cents off their checks.
Veterans groups have successfully fought the practice in recent years, arguing the small amounts build up to significant losses for veterans over time. White House officials say the move will save about $20 million in fiscal 2018 alone and almost $2.7 billion over the next decade.