Republicans like to masquerade as the party most supportive of America’s veterans, but the truth is that their current policy agenda has the power to do great detriment to the economic security of those who have served their country.
From job support to healthcare to services for those who are disabled, the Trump administration and Republican leadership are moving to undermine the wellbeing of veterans and their families through budget cuts — and adding insult to injury, they will help pay for tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.
Here are the five ways in which Trump’s and the congressional majority’s budgets deceptively undermine the security of veterans and their families, whether it is their ability to find work, stay healthy, or keep a roof over their heads.
Making it harder for veterans to find jobs
President Trump began his attack on veterans’ jobs when he first took office by instituting a hiring freeze for the federal government. This freeze disproportionately affected veterans, who are an essential part of the federal workforce. Nearly one-third of federal employees hired in 2015 were veterans, and close to half of these were veterans with disabilities.8
Now, rather than invest in training opportunities for veterans — as previously promised — Trump’s budget cuts will take opportunity away.
The public workforce system, authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), serves nearly 1 million veterans each year, offering services such as career development, job training, and job search assistance.10Yet the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts would result in thousands of veterans losing access to these programs and services.
Reducing veterans’ access to health care
Contrary to popular belief, not all veterans are eligible for, enrolled in, or even fully covered by the VA’s health care system.16 In actuality, most veterans and their families depend on private health insurance,17 which covers 13.6 million veterans,18 or public insurance such as Medicaid, to which nearly 1.8 million veterans turn for coverage.19According to a recent report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, under the ACA, the number of uninsured veterans decreased nearly 40 percent between 2013 and 2015 thanks largely to the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid coverage.20
But Trump and Republicans are bent on undoing ACA-related gains, which necessarily will have a negative impact on America’s veterans.
The latest ACA repeal effort—referred to as the Graham-Cassidy bill after its two lead sponsors—is even more radical: It stops funding for the ACA’s Medicaid expansion after 2026 and caps the remaining Medicaid program. This proposal is estimated to cost 579,000 veterans their Medicaid coverage by 2027.23
Taking away supports and services from veterans with disabilities
President Trump’s proposed $72 billion in deep cuts to the nation’s disability supports over the next decade would also be disastrous for veterans.26 Nearly 1 million veterans received Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in 2013,27 but President Trump wants to add more red tape that would make it harder for people with disabilities to access the benefits they have earned.28
Part of Trump’s budget proposal involves eliminating the Individual Unemployability benefits program — a service that allows the VA to provide benefits “at the 100 percent-disabled rate to veterans who are unable to get a job because of service-connected disabilities, even if their disability is not rated at the 100 percent level.29”
Also suggested for the chopping block?
[The] Limb Loss Resource Center and the Paralysis Resource Center,31both of which provide essential support for veterans, who are disproportionately likely to be paralyzed and have elevated rates of traumatic amputation.32
Increasing veteran hunger and food insecurity
Veterans and their families make up a sizeable share of Americans facing food insecurity.33 In a recent long-term study of veterans, nearly 1 in 4 participants experienced food insecurity and were more likely to have difficulty staying healthy as a result. Inadequate nutrition can also exacerbate chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and depression.34 New CAP analysis reveals that in 2015, nearly 1.5 million veterans lived in households that relied on SNAP benefits to keep themselves and their families healthy and fed. If implemented through a reduction in the number of people participating in the program, the cut of nearly $200 billion that Trump proposed for SNAP over the next decade could snatch critical nutrition assistance away from an average of 400,000 veterans per year—needlessly exposing them to the threats of hunger and malnourishment.35
Increasing veteran homelessness and housing insecurity
Nearly two-thirds of the people reported as homeless or living in shelters in the 2016 single-night census conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were veterans.38 Rental assistance is critical in helping veterans afford decent housing and in preventing and reducing veteran homelessness. More than 340,000 low-income veterans received rental assistance, which plays a significant role in reducing veterans’ homelessness, in March 2014.39
Though federal affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs support only a small share of veterans, Trump’s budget proposal targets rental assistance programs for cuts.
Between 2010 and 2016, veteran homelessness declined by about 47 percent; the president’s agenda threatens to undo this progress.
The points discussed above represent just a handful of the benefits and services in jeopardy under current Republican leadership in the White House and in Congress.
Both veterans and their families have made sacrifices for this country. The United States should commit to meeting their collective needs and ensuring familial care after service members leave active duty. Cutting services that directly affect veterans would be a double betrayal, as both veterans and their families would suffer if programs that support their basic living needs were slashed.