Some veterans in The Villages could lose their homes if a federal proposal to cut benefits is enacted, said Villager Jack Johnson, Florida commander of the Disabled American Veterans.
Of about 40,000 veterans in The Villages, Johnson estimated at least 1,000 disabled veterans receive about $3,000 monthly from the Individual Unemployability Program because they are unable to find a job due to service-related injuries.
The federal bill would cut off the benefit when veterans reach 62, the age when they can begin to draw Social Security. Veterans would not be able to apply for the program after that age.
But since the recipients are disabled veterans, it’s unlikely they have paid much into Social Security, Johnson said.
“People could lose their homes,” he said.
As many as 225,000 veterans nationally, including 7,000 who are over age 80, could be affected.
The change is included in President Donald Trump’s $186.5-billion budget for the Veteran’s Administration, which includes a 6 percent increase is discretionary funding.
Johnson said the benefit cut is part of an effort to save money to revamp the Choice program, which allows veterans living far from VA hospitals to be reimbursed for visits to local doctors.
“That program has been a disaster,” he said.
In defending the benefit cut, VA Secretary David Shulkin said paying unemployment benefits to veterans over age 80 doesn’t make sense. He estimated the change will save $3.2 billion next year.
But Johnson and veterans’ groups are fighting the proposed cut.
John Rowan, national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said the plan abandons the most severely disabled veterans of the Vietnam War generation. Brian Duffy, VFW national commander, said he opposes forcing wounded, ill and injured veterans to pay for improvements elsewhere in the VA.
Johnson said veterans in The Villages can contact their congressman and senators about the plan either directly or through the DAV web site.