Pension plan to pay for first $2 billion of new spending on veterans and military pensions
A $2.6 billion plan to cover the first $3.5 billion of additional spending for veterans and active duty military members will be unveiled on Tuesday, raising the prospect that the White House will be pushing for more spending on health care for the millions of veterans who depend on it.
The plan was unveiled as the administration grapples with a $19 billion funding shortfall and is trying to get lawmakers to agree on spending increases for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The administration has been trying to find a way to make up for the $19.5 trillion in cuts and sequestration enacted by Congress, which also will begin July 1, which has made it harder to raise money to cover spending for the war in Afghanistan.
The administration has offered several proposals to help address the shortfall, including raising the eligibility age for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the Medicare-for-All insurance program and other initiatives.
However, none of them have been able to garner support in Congress.
On Tuesday, President Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to unveil the proposal, which is the first step in a push to find additional revenue to pay down the deficit.
Pelosi has also proposed raising the maximum retirement age for new veterans to 70 from the current 65, as well as raising the payroll tax rate on military personnel.
The $2,500 per month that the VA and other government health care programs would pay for a new retiree would go toward the cost of a second pension, and the administration is looking to raise $300 million a year from the federal government for the first two years of the plan, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The additional funds for veterans could be used to pay a portion of the cost for additional health care services for the troops, the official said, noting that the president has made clear that he would like to increase benefits for troops in the future.
The proposal would provide a total of $2 million to cover “a first-in, first-out, first to death” provision that allows troops to seek medical care at the VA if they can prove they have been in the military for less than 10 years.
The proposal would also give new troops the ability to request VA treatment for PTSD and other conditions and to receive discounted care if they are hospitalized, according the official, who added that the first-ever VA treatment facility would be in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen an administration come together in the last year to come up with a proposal like this,” said Matthew C. Lacey, the president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“This is a good first step, but the president needs to come to Congress with more specifics, not just a promise.”
The proposal, however, will not be the only major piece of new infrastructure the White Senate has announced.
The Senate is also working on a $4.5 million plan to build a $1 trillion transportation infrastructure for the nation, with $500 million earmarked for a national bridge to connect the Northeast Corridor with Interstate 75.
The White House is expected to announce its own $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan on Tuesday.