The targets are veterans who receive benefits for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and veterans who have been declared by the VA as being too disabled to work and, therefore, receive compensation under the Individual Unemployability (IU) rating.
First, it was VA Secretary Jim Nicholson speaking on a cable TV show in El Paso, Texas. One of the topics of discussion was the VAs review of 72,000 PTSD claims that have already been awarded to veterans. The VA has determined that it may have awarded some benefits without proper documentation from the veteran. Veterans groups have protested the review claiming that the benefits could not have been awarded without proper documentation.
In an amazing display of ignorance and arrogance, Secretary Nicholson said, "We need to try to restore them [veterans] to the extent that we can. People can be treated for that [PTSD] and most people can recover from that." Note the use of the word recover, a word frighteningly close in meaning to the word cure. Nicholson cited no medical authority for his opinion that veterans with PTSD can recover.
According to many PTSD counselors, the major stress on veterans seeking compensation is financial in nature. Once the PTSD claim is approved and compensation is received, that stress is removed and the veterans need for therapy declines.
Then, Secretary Nicholson dropped a bombshell on veterans. He said, "Every veteran has a right to appeal their claim indefinitely for the rest of their lives. Nicholson has set up a revolving door for veterans: file claim, get denied, appeal, file claim, get denied, appeal, ad infinitum.
The constant stress of reviews and denials and appeals is tantamount to torture for veterans who suffer from PTSD.
The view from one attorney who represents veterans is that the VA is trying to rid itself of high-dollar awards and push disabled veterans into filing for lower dollar amount benefits from the Social Security Administration.
The other attack on disabled veterans last week came from Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs (SCVA). Craig held a Senate oversight hearing titled, "The Rising Number of Disabled Veterans Deemed Unemployable: Is the System Failing? A closer look at VAs individual unemployability benefit.
The IU rating is a judgment by the VA that a veteran is unable to follow a "substantially gainful occupation" as a result of service-connected disabilities. The minimum requirement for consideration of an IU rating is 60 per cent for a single disability or a combined 70 per cent evaluation with at least one 40 per cent disability. When the VA declares a veteran unemployable, they receive benefits at the 100 per cent level, a little over $2,200 a month.
Senator Craig noted that about 200,000 veterans are now deemed unemployable. Between 1999 and 2004, the number of IU awards more than doubled. Its interesting to note that the years chosen by Craig are the same years included in the VAs PTSD review.
The hearing was contentious, and divided along party lines, with support for veterans IU benefits coming from Democrat Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Barack Obama of Illinois and others.
Then, Senator Craig went on to twist the testimony of others by saying, "I reject the notion, put forth by some at the hearing, that veterans with disabilities cant work, that we shouldnt waste resources even making the effort to try, and that looking for work is somehow demeaning. No one testified to that. But, Craig had to spin the testimony to achieve his goal of disparaging IU benefits.