Monday, April 24, 2006

Vets time to fight

And all because Paris Hilton needs a tax cut



This is the latest VA Watchdog article for and

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April 24, 2006

Push to cut Benefits for Vets who get VA and Social Security Compensation

SHORT HEAD: Push to cut VA Benefits

by Larry Scott

Vets' Commission Chair, General Terry Scott wants to study if vets
should get VA compensation and Social Security disability at the same
time with the aim of reducing benefits. In an unconstitutional move, he
asks Congress to interpret its own law so he would have the power to
launch study.

The next step in dismantling veterans' benefits could be a payment
reduction, known as an offset, for veterans receiving disability
compensation and Social Security.

The Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission (VDBC) was established by
Public Law 108-136 and signed into being by President Bush in November
2003. The VDBC's charter states they are to study "whether a veteran's
disability or death should be compensated" and at what level if any.

Since the VDBC was first established it was obvious to veterans and
veterans' service organizations (VSOs) that the Commission had one thing
in mind and that was cutting veterans' benefits. The VDBC is made up of
13 political appointees. Four were appointed by Democratic Members of
Congress, four more by Republican Members and the other five by
President Bush. The VDBC is truly a 9-4 politically-stacked deck even
though they like to refer to themselves as bipartisan. The legality of
the VDBC has been questioned by some VSOs.

As the VDBC's meetings progressed, veterans began to notice a
"secretive" quality to the workings of the Commission. Last fall the
VDBC issued a list of questions they would study. They asked for input
and gave veterans just a few days, over a Holiday weekend, to respond.
The questions signaled the direction of the VDBC. One question was:
"Does the disability benefit provided affect a veteran's incentive to work?"

Now, "secretive" has taken on a new meaning. In a recent editorial
written by Arthur H. Wilson, National Adjutant for the Disabled American
Veterans (DAV) we find: "Optimism was in short supply at the
Commission's March 16-17 meeting as some of its members maneuvered to
authorize collecting data about Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI) benefits paid to veterans who also receive VA disability
compensation. That was done with a view toward an offset [reduction] of
disability insurance if the veteran receives disability compensation
from the VA."

Wilson continues: "A move to sidestep proper procedures and hold a
secret ballot on the matter was postponed, but the issue is expected to
resurface at the commission's meeting in May. If so, it could lay the
groundwork for cutting or eliminating veterans' benefits as a way of
saving the government money. The idea that disability compensation is
some kind of income security or welfare program cheapens the service and
sacrifice of disabled veterans. That kind of thinking might also open
the door to cutting off VA compensation when a disabled veteran becomes
eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Veterans' benefits
are separate and distinct from Social Security, so receiving payments
under both programs is not dual compensation for the same disability, as
some have tried to argue."

It appears the VDBC is about evenly split on the idea of studying the
SSDI issue. But the Chairman, retired Army Lt. General Terry Scott, is
adamant about getting this on the agenda and wants the power to move
forward. And, he wants the help of Congress to push his agenda. Scott
has taken the liberty of writing to Congress asking them to interpret
their own law that established the VDBC.

This presents a problem. It is unconstitutional for Congress to
interpret its own laws. Congress passes laws and the courts interpret
them. But, this hasn't stopped General Scott.

In an email to the House and Senate Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs
Committees, General Scott writes: "Some Commissioners believe that this
charge [the VDBC's charter] should be interpreted broadly to mean all
related benefits received by disabled veterans under the laws of the
United States to include...SSDI payments...the Chairman would appreciate
clarification of the intent of Congress in writing or in person during
the next Commission public meeting May 19, 2006"

General Scott's unconstitutional request has raised major concerns among
the VSOs. Christopher J. Clay, General Counsel for the DAV, has written
to the four Chairmen involved. In part, Clay's letter states:
"...[General Scott's] request, if honored...would violate one of the
fundamental principles which have guided the government of the United
States for more than 200 years. That principle is the separation of
powers...Congress exercises the sole power to enact laws while the
Judicial and Executive Branches have the power to say what those laws
mean...neither a committee of either the House or Senate nor the full
Congress may interpret a statute after it is enacted, without passing a
new law...The DAV is unaware of any precedent for the congressional
interpretations requested by the Commission Chairman. If the Committee
responds to the Chairman's inquiry, it will set a precedent that the
courts are no longer the sole arbiters of disputes over our laws."

Now, veterans play the waiting game. Will any of the four Congressional
Committees respond to General Scott's request and interpret their own
law? Will General Scott get enough votes from VDBC members to push
ahead with his idea to study a Social Security offset (reduction) for
veterans' disability compensation? We will know by May 19.

But, what we don't have to wait for is the fact that General Terry Scott
and other members of the VDBC want to cut veterans' benefits and will
try to hold secret votes and try to get Congress to, unconstitutionally,
interpret its own laws.

General Scott must be reminded that veterans' disability compensation is
not welfare. It is not to be confused with welfare. It is not to be
confused with any other sort of compensation. Veterans receive
disability compensation because they earned it. Many earned it on the
field of battle. They don't deserve to lose it in a Commission hearing.

© 2006 Larry Scott / VA Watchdog dot Org


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At 8:26 PM, Blogger Disability Blogger said...

Wouldn't be too surprising, considering the current administration.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to get general Scott out in the bush and show him a real combat veteran, NOT A PHONY LIKE HIM.


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