The Congressional Budget Office has suggested cutting benefits for America’s veterans as a way of mitigating the damage done by President Donald Trump’s fiscal policies — which the CBO expects to cause a deficit of about $1 trillion this year.
In its Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028, the CBO laid out 121 opportunities for curtailing spending and raising revenue. These include raising Tricare enrollment fees for military retirees, instituting enrollment fees for Tricare for Life and reducing veterans benefits.
Raising fees for working-age retirees
Increasing enrollment fees for working-age retirees could save the federal government $12.6 billion, according to the CBO analysis. Such a savings would require the Defense Department to more than double the annual enrollment fees for both individuals and families participating in Tricare Prime.
It would also entail instituting yearly fees of $485 for individuals and $970 for families who enroll in Tricare Select, Military.com reported. At present, most working-age retirees in this program pay no enrollment fees.
Instituting enrollment fees for Tricare for Life
Tricare for Life is a program offering supplemental coverage for military retirees on Medicare:
Analysts estimated that the Defense Department could save $12 billion between 2021 and 2028 if it adopted annual enrollment fees of $485 for an individual or $970 for a family for Tricare for Life, in addition to the Medicare premiums most military retirees 65 and older pay.
Introduce out-of-pocket minimums for Tricare for Life
The CBO proposed ending Tricare for Life’s coverage of the $750 of cost-sharing payments under Medicare and then cover only 50 percent of the next $7,000.
Proposed cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs
• Narrowing eligibility for disability compensation for seven diseases the Government Accountability Office has said are not caused or aggravated by military service, including arteriosclerotic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Crohn's disease, hemorrhoids, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and uterine fibroids. This option would save $33 billion over 10 years.
• Ending the VA's individual unemployability payments to disabled veterans when they turn 67, the retirement age for receiving full Social Security benefits, which would save an estimated $48 billion.
• Reducing disability benefits to veterans older than 67 who are receiving Social Security payments. This could save the government $11 billion.
• Eliminating disability compensation for 1.3 million veterans with disability rates below 30 percent, saving $38 billion over an eight-year period.
• [I]ncluding VA disability payments as taxable income. According to the CBO, if all disability payments were to be taxed, federal revenues during the time frame would increase by $93 billion.