Occasionally, Red207 will publish online-only guest posts. The below was submitted by Justin Fecteau of Augusta.
We are all well aware of Congressman Michael Michaud’s career-long focus on veterans’ issues. Exactly how much he has accomplished in that realm without getting a single bill passed in Congress remains unclear, but suffice it to say, he has an entire section of his campaign website devoted to telling us, in four short paragraphs, about his record on veterans’ issues.
The headline of this op-ed may seem unbelievable, then. Why would Congressman Michaud be trying to cut veterans’ benefits?
But that’s exactly what he did last week. According to the Washington Times, Michaud asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to look for ways to reduce spending on disability benefits for veterans in light of rapidly growing expenditures. The report requested by Michaud contained several controversial ideas, including taxing those disability benefits, preventing veterans from collecting pensions and disability at the same time, and capping the time limit for filing a claim at as little as five years.
Other proposals put forward in Michaud’s report include re-examining patients in order to reduce payouts, restricting Individual Unemployability Benefits to veterans under the age of 65, and reducing cost of living adjustments.
The proposal in Michaud’s report to tax disability benefits is eerily similar to the plan he supported in the Maine Senate to tax seniors’ social security benefits in order to give tax breaks to state employees. In all, the proposals would result in billions of dollars in reduced benefits for disabled veterans. Not surprisingly, there has been some major push-back against this from activists on veterans’ issues, with one writer calling Michaud’s report “insulting” and “shameful trash.”
Disabled American Veterans told the Wall Street Journal that Michaud’s report should get an extra frosty reception in Congress in light of the horrendous treatment veterans have been receiving from many scandal-plagued Veterans Administration hospitals. One would think that after seeing this meltdown of veterans’ health care on his watch, the last thing Congressman Michaud would want to do is look for ways to cut benefits to disabled veterans.
The question of why Michaud is on this quest to slash and tax veterans’ benefits is certainly a good one. Virtually every bureau, agency, and department in the federal government has seen a serious upward spending trajectory, but the increased spending on veterans’ disability payments since 2000 is perhaps the only understandable and justifiable one of them all. Our country has effectively been at war since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and our veterans are hurting. Politicians like Congressman Michaud should pay them what they’re owed instead of looking for ways to cut their benefits.
This initiative by Michaud really sheds light on the kind of politician he has become. He must be taking his support from veterans for granted if he’s asking the CBO for ways to cut their benefits.
Furthermore, it puts on full display exactly how out-of-touch Congressman Michaud has become throughout his 34 year career in politics. In poll after poll, Mainers and Americans say they want less government, not more. Michaud, however, seems to care only about growing the size of government, voting 99 times to increase our taxes and opposing a balanced budget constitutional amendment in Washington. People want less government, but it seems the only area of government Michaud is willing to cut is the area that most people want to increase, and that is services for our disabled veterans.
When asked to explain his benefit-cutting report, Michaud’s office did not directly answer the question of why he requested the proposals and refused to denounce them.
Congressman Michaud should never have initiated such a devastating set of proposals, but at least now he has the chance to break his silence, denounce them, and instead of looking for ways to cut benefits, look for ways to improve veterans’ services in the wake of the VA scandal that happened on his watch as ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Justin Fecteau of Augusta served from 2006-2012 in the U.S. Army and was deployed twice to Iraq.