Government Cutting Assistance to Veterans to Fund Special Immigrant Visa Program

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Government Cutting Assistance to Veterans to Fund Special Immigrant Visa Program

Two years and $10 billion after the scandal that resulted in a solemn pledge from the government to remedy long waits by veterans in need of health care, wait times for care have gotten longer, not shorter. Now veterans are being forced to pay more out-of-pocket for prescription medicines so that the government can fund more visas for Afghani interpreters who worked with Americans during the U.S. involvement in that country.

When members of Congress voted to increase the amount veterans would have to pay for medications by $1.5 billion, they did not realize that the administration would use the $336 million of that savings to fund the resettlement of an additional 3,000 Afghani interpreters under the Special Immigrant visa (SIV) category. These additional SIVs would come on top of 7,000 already allocated through FY 2017.The increase in Special Immigrant visas is being championed by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). According to sources on the Senate Armed Services Committee, some senators are pushing for further cuts to benefits to pay for additional SIVs.

Some of the Afghani interpreters may legitimately be in danger and merit resettlement, although the 7,000 already authorized seems like more than enough. Moreover, it is highly questionable why the funding for additional SIVs should come at the expense of veterans (including those who served in Afghanistan). Given the government’s recent record of serving veterans it would seem like they should be the last people to have benefits cut in order to fund this program.

There are countless needless, politically-driven visa programs that could be cut to cover the costs of the SIV program. There are also enormous sums of money, provided through government grants to advocacy groups that fund countless programs for immigrants who were admitted on the understanding that they would be self-sufficient.

But, based on empirical evidence, the needs of veterans are not a priority for the current administration. But getting as many immigrants and refugees into the United States clearly is.