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MD Veterans Count On More than the Defense Budget

PHOTO: Maryland is home to nearly 500,000 veterans.
PHOTO: Maryland is home to nearly 500,000 veterans.
November 12, 2012

BALTIMORE – In the Washington, D.C., budget wars, some veterans are reminding people that not all the programs important to vets are considered military spending. For instance, what happens to food stamps and Social Security will directly affect many lower-income veterans.

It's true that the Defense Department budget would take a big hit if Congress sends the nation over the so-called fiscal cliff. But Richard Kogan, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), says the Veterans Affairs budget is separate and protected, and so is the pay for active-duty soldiers.

"The president had the option - the one option he's granted under the law - to exempt military personnel salaries from those cuts, and he chose that option."

Nearly 500,000 veterans live in Maryland.

Kogan says weapons programs and Pentagon research would most likely be the areas slashed if major budget cuts go into effect. However, he points out that everything is on the table as Congress tries to reach a budget deal, including social services that homeless, unemployed and lower-income vets count on. Veterans would suffer along with the rest of the country if the economy tanks.

"If there's no agreement, then their programs are protected - whereas if there is an agreement, their programs might not be protected. But on the other hand, if there's no agreement, then the CBO says that, at least in the short run, the economy suffers."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said the big tax increases and spending cuts that create the fiscal cliff could throw the nation back into recession.

The CBPP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income Americans. See its blog about the budget debate here.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD