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VA Won't Slash Unemployment Benefits of Elderly Veterans

Image: VA Won't Slash Unemployment Benefits of Elderly Veterans
(AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017 10:02 PM

The Department of Veterans Affairs is backing away from plans to slash tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits from elderly veterans after advocates condemned the move for targeting the most vulnerable vets.

VA Secretary David Shulkin told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Wednesday he's willing to work with lawmakers to find an alternative to the proposed $3.2 billion cut to the VA Individual Unemployability benefit, Stars and Stripes reported.

Under a provision in President Donald Trump's $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018, eligibility rules would change for the Individual Unemployability program — affecting up to 210,000 veterans over the age of 60, at least 7,000 of whom are over 80, Military Times reported.

The IU payouts can total almost $20,000 a year.

Administration officials want to stop those payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, arguing that retirement-age individuals should no longer qualify for unemployment benefits, Military Times reported.

"As I began to listen to veterans and their concerns, and [veterans service organizations] in particular, it became clear that this would be hurting some veterans and a takeaway from veterans who can't afford to have those benefits taken away," Shulkin said.

"I'm really concerned about that. This is part of a process. We have to be looking at ways to do things better, but I am not going to support policies that hurt veterans."

The money cut from the benefit would've gone to an updated version of the VA Choice program, which allows vets to seek health care outside the department.

The VA is seeking $2.9 billion in new funds for the program.

"The president, as you know, is concerned about the government being too large, so our responsibility is to make sure the programs we have are working well," Shulkin told Stars and Stripes.

"But the president and I both do not want to be taking away from veterans. So we are going to go back and make sure we can hit the targets but look at alternative ways of doing it."

AMVETS National Director Joe Chenelly said the group had received 4,000 calls in the past few weeks from worried vets.

“These veterans are scared. Some of them are talking in suicidal ways, and we're referring them to the Veterans Crisis Line," Chenelly told Stars and Stripes.

"All of them are talking about hopelessness if IU is taken from them. We cannot let them sit around all summer waiting to see if this will happen."

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is backing away from plans to slash tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits from elderly veterans after advocates condemned the move for targeting the most vulnerable vets.
veterans, affairs, unemployment, benefits, elderly, veterans
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2017-02-14
Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017 10:02 PM
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