American Legion vice commander says $1.2 trillion Defense cut will hurt agency
The Jamestown (N.D.) Sun
Across-the-board U.S. budget cuts of more than $1 trillion are one of the American Legion’s biggest concerns, according to a national official.
David Voyles, one of five national vice commanders, is in Jamestown this weekend for the state American Legion Convention.
The political activity of the American Legion focuses on lobbying on behalf of veterans and service members.
On Friday — before he took the stage as the banquet’s keynote speaker — Voyles outlined some of the organization’s primary concerns.
A “super committee” of senators tasked last year with finding a way to cut the roughly $15 trillion deficit by $1.2 trillion failed to reach a compromise, Voyles said. That means an automatic cut for the Department of Defense, he said.
“If we can’t get it stopped before Jan. 1 you’re looking at a $1.2 trillion cut in the Department of Defense,” Voyles said.
His figures said this will create 500,000 jobless veterans, in addition to a military capabilities trim. The military will be about as powerful as it was during the Korean conflict, Voyles said.
“It makes no sense to cut your military services down like they’re talking about,” he said. “We still got problems overseas.”
His message for the 2.4 million American Legion members across the nation is the same.
“I want them to talk to their senators and talk to their congressmen and tell them you’re not for this Department of Defense cut,” Voyles said.
The fact the enrollment fees will be increasing for TRICARE coverage over the next five years is also a problem for Voyles.
TRICARE is the health care program for the Department of Defense Military Health System.
Each year for the next five years enrollment costs will increase, making health care less affordable for veterans.
Although there is just talk now nationally about changing the pension program for veterans, Voyles is already concerned. He said the talk involves switching from pensions to a 401(k) plan.
“If you’re serious about going from pensions to 401(k)s — that’s scary,” he said. “You’re gambling — I don’t want to gamble.”
Lobbying is only part of what the American Legion does nationally.
Since 2006 the American Legion Legacy Run has raised more than $2 million for scholarships for children who have lost a parent in the armed services since 9/11.
American Legion Children and Youth Programs also gave $600,000 to 19 different nonprofit organizations last year to benefit children.
Locally there are oratorical contests for scholarships, where winners in Jamestown can advance to the state level and then the national level, again for scholarships.
“We’ve done so many things for the younger ones to show them we’re fighting for their benefits,” Voyles said.
One of his main points Friday was to get local American Legion members excited and involved in activities in their communities across the state.
At the end of the day Voyles said American Legion programs are intended to help those who can’t help themselves by providing them with an education.
“If you don’t have that education certificate that says you graduated you’re not going to get a good job,” he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services