The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) provides U.S. Armed Forces veterans access to disability compensation for a variety of medical conditions that occur or worsen during active-duty military service, but compensation for several conditions designated as service-connected may be disappearing in the near future.
In its recent “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2017 to 2026” report, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) proposed narrowing eligibility for disability compensation by excluding seven conditions deemed by the Government Accountability Office as being unlikely to be caused or exacerbated by military service. This option would eliminate VA disability compensation for the following conditions, beginning in January 2018:
In 2015, the VA paid approximately 716,000 veterans a total of $3.7 billion to compensate for these medical conditions, the CBO reported. Under this proposal, not only would veterans who apply for compensation for these conditions in the future be denied, but compensation for those currently receiving benefits would be reduced or even eliminated.
The CBO estimated that this option would reduce outlays by $26 billion from 2018 to 2026, with most savings resulting from curtailing payments to current recipients of disability compensation. It also added that a broader option eliminating compensation for all disabilities unrelated to military duties could result in more savings but might also be more difficult to administer, depending on the VA’s eligibility criteria.
The Department of Defense offers a separate disability compensation system for service members who can no longer fulfill their military duties because of a disability. The CBO proposal would not impact this system.
While the option would make the disability compensation system for military veterans more comparable to civilian systems – as few employers offer long-term disability benefits – the CBO noted that, unlike a civilian job, military service “confers unique benefits to society and imposes extraordinary risk on service members.”