(WFLA) – Hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to lose their benefits and maybe their means to pay their bills if a proposal from the president passes.
On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump pledged, “We are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before.”
President Trump’s proposed budget for the V.A. is more than $186 billion. He’s increased money for veterans seeking medical attention outside the V.A. to $13 billion.
To help pay for that, Mr. Trump proposes taking benefits away from veterans like George Diaz of New Port Richey.
“It’ll be real devastating,” said Mr. Diaz, who joined the Navy in 1971.
While serving on the U.S.S. Valcour in Bahrain, he suffered a badly broken right leg. Bahrainian doctors messed up the surgery so badly, Mr. Diaz’s leg is half inch shorter than his left.
“I always had pain in the leg, but I was younger,” explained Mr. Diaz.
He worked 33 years, but the injury now prevents him from holding a job.
“I developed a scoliosis and it just kind of, after awhile, it just gets unbearable,” he said.
Mr. Diaz is one of 340,000 veterans receiving Unemployability benefits. That means the V.A. pays him a 100 percent disability rate because he can’t work, even though his injury might not be 100 percent debilitating.
Diaz just turned 62. He is now eligible for Social Security retirement. The president proposes eliminating his Unemployability benefit, claiming veterans like Mr. Diaz are double dipping, receiving both Unemployability and Social Security benefits.
“My Social Security is my retirement and my disability is through service to my country,” stated Mr. Diaz. “So, I don’t see it as double dipping at all.”
“The president’s saying, ‘I’m helping veterans by taking money away from veterans to give it to other veterans,'” said Ralph Bratch, a veterans disability lawyer.
Mr. Bratch calls the proposal, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
“Some of them simply will not be able to pay their bills and end up potentially homeless,” he said.
Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs will hold a hearing on the president’s proposed budget. The hot topic is expected to be Unemployability.
The V.A. estimates it will save $3 billion dollars a year by slashing Unemployability benefits from veterans aged 62 and older.
The proposal is take away the Unemployability and replace it with Social Security retirement benefits. At age 62, Social Security retirement benefits are greatly reduced.
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