Redefining Veterans

Over the past few months, this right-wing’s handling of Veterans issues has gone from bad to worse.

January: House Republican Leaders remove Rep. Christopher Smith from his chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee after he repeatedly asserts his independence from Leader Hastert. Most major Veterans organizations are outraged.

February: The proposed 2006 budget only included a very small increase — even though there will be a huge increase of service members who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan injured, and it would require Veterans to pay $250 a year to use the VA health services.

March: Hundreds of disabled veterans descended on the House Veterans Affairs Committee as it was holding hearings, to protest the 2006 budget.

And, now, Smith’s replacement, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) wants to dramatically overhaul the Veterans Administration. Where does he start? By redefining what a veteran is. To cut costs, Buyer wants to reshape benefits and VA programs so that they are only available to a very specific group of veterans. Hastert has also recently announced the formation of the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission. Buyer wants them to consider offering one-time payments to some veterans with disabilities, preventing them from ever pursuing any additional claims — even if they have a degenerative disease that gets worse with age.