Thirty million fewer healthcare visits. Fewer staff, increased claims backlog, longer wait times for benefits. Almost a $30 billion shortfall for veterans funding. That’s the uncertainty that awaits America’s veterans, should Congressional Republicans succeed in dramatically slashing federal spending as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy proposed on April 19.
Last Congress, we honored our promise to toxic-exposed veterans by providing benefits and care to approximately three million veterans exposed to toxins, including burn pits. However, this achievement is meaningless if the funding to implement it is gutted. Republicans have promised to reduce funding to fiscal year 2022 levels — which risks a 22% decrease in resources for veterans’ care and benefits. And many of them are calling for even deeper cuts.
Cutting care and services by nearly a quarter is a disservice to the men and women who have served this country, and befuddling given how often Republicans wrap themselves in the flag and embrace the veteran community.
Here’s what House Republican’s proposed cuts would mean for veterans — reduced veterans’ access to care, fewer staff to process claims, longer wait times for benefits, less support for national cemeteries, weakened VA cybersecurity and telehealth services, and a further deteriorated VA infrastructure. VA Secretary McDonough says the cuts could mean a potential reduction of 30 million healthcare visit for veterans and the loss of over 81,000 VA employees providing benefits to veterans.
This news is guaranteed to land with a thud in veterans’ communities nationwide. As members of Congress who sit on committees with jurisdiction over veterans issues, we hear from veterans, and the organizations that advocate on their behalf every day. We encourage our House Republican colleagues to ask our country’s 19 million veterans whether they think slashing investments in their well-being makes sense. Our guess is they won’t like the answer.
There’s a saying, “either put up or...” It’s time for Republicans to put their money where their mouth is, and demonstrate their commitment to America’s veterans by producing a budget that honors those who served, lest they allow veterans’ healthcare and benefits to be held hostage by the extreme wing of their party.
Veterans’ care and benefits are sacred promises we pay to our veterans as part of the cost of war and in acknowledgment of their sacrifice. We owe it to our nation’s veterans to honorably recognize their service — not subject them to political hijinks with potentially disastrous consequences.
Rep. Mark A. Takano, D-Calif., serves as the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., serves on the House Appropriations Committee, where she sits as the ranking member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. Rep. Chris Deluzio, D.-Pa., is an Iraq War veteran and vice ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Have an opinion?
This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us.
Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.