I want to thank everyone for contacting their elected officials to stop the bill that would eliminate Individual Unemployability for elderly disabled veterans.

I want to thank everyone for contacting their elected officials to stop the bill that would eliminate Individual Unemployability for elderly disabled veterans.

The veterans have spoken. Administration officials are backing away from plans to slash tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits from elderly veterans after an outcry from advocates who warned the move could cause significant financial harm to vulnerable veterans.

During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said that he wants to avoid any policy changes that “hurt veterans” and is considering other options to the proposed changes. At issue was a provision in President Donald Trump’s $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018 that would dramatically change eligibility rules for the department's Individual Unemployability program. Up to 210,000 veterans over the age of 60, at least 7,000 of whom are over 80, could be impacted by the change. Under current rules, the IU program awards payouts at the 100 percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot work due to service-connected disabilities, even if their actual rating decision is less than that. Administration officials wanted to stop those payouts once veterans were eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.

For more information, contact Sandra Van Zant at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or call 325-365-3612.