The Air Force News and other outlets in Gannet Media's Military Times Network are reporting that Bachmann plan would cut veterans benefits:
Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has unveiled a plan for cutting $400 billion in federal spending that includes freezing Veterans Affairs Department health care spending and cutting veterans’ disability benefits.
Her proposed VA budget cuts would account for $4.5 billion of the savings included in the plan, posted on her official House of Representatives website.
Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said cutting veterans’ health care spending is an ill-advised move at a time when the number of veterans continues to grow as troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Sullivan said he finds it difficult to see how VA could freeze health care costs without hurting veterans.
“It is really astonishing to see this,” he said.
I'm astonished as well. Two friends in the Marines are going to be deployed to Afghanistan within the next few months; one friend's son in the Army Rangers will also be sent into harm's way this year. To freeze a health care budget at a time of rising need created by the young veterans of ongoing wars and an aging population of vets who served earlier seems foolhardy. The Air Force Times article reports:
Her list of cuts doesn’t explain the impact of freezing veterans’ health care funding, but the Congressional Budget Office said in a report issued in October that health care costs have been quickly increasing. VA’s health care budget was $44 billion in 2009, $48 billion in 2010 and is at $52 billion this year. The report forecasts a health care budget of $69 billion or higher by 2020 if trends continue, the report estimates.
I can't think of anyone in any party who campaigned on backpedaling from promises made to our service members; in fact, in the First, Randy Demmer's campaign manager complained last year when Walz held a town hall with veterans, since supposedly there was no disagreement about veterans' issues and funding.
Now Bachmann tells America that's not the case.
It's also no surprise that First District Congressman Tim Walz should answer back. Friends who served under Walz when he was their First Sergeant said you never wanted to hear him upbraid you when you did something ill-advised. I think Michele Bachmann just did.
From the congressional office:
Today, Congressman Walz released the following statement in response to Representative Bachmann’s plan to cut benefits for those who have bravely served our country in uniform.“We have to have an aggressive, long-term plan to tackle our nation’s debt, but attempting to balance the budget on the backs of veterans who have risked life and limb in service of our country is unacceptable. I believe we can and should work together to find reasonable and common-sense cuts that will reduce our debt, but as a generation of warriors returns from two wars, our most solemn responsibility is to make sure they have the care and benefits they have earned.”Walz is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. He served in the National Guard for 24 years, retiring as a Command Sergeant Major. Before retiring, Walz served overseas in Italy with his battalion in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Photo: Walz at a 2010 town hall for veterans.