Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wilson expects to fund benefits improvements as long as he can take some away

Wilson expects to fund benefits improvements
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 4, 2011 13:16:54 EDT
The chairman of the House subcommittee responsible for military benefits said Wednesday he is “very hopeful” of finding money to pay for some major benefits improvements next week when the House Armed Services Committee takes up the 2012 defense budget.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., chairman of the committee’s personnel panel, said he is looking for money to pay for improvements in reserve retired pay, to reduce the so-called “widow’s tax” that cuts military survivor benefits for those also receiving such benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department, and to prevent a proposed retail pharmacy co-pay increase for new prescriptions for acute ailments.

Wilson said he is not making promises for large and sweeping changes, but he believes committee aides have identified some sources of funding from within the defense budget that could be tapped to pay for modest changes in those three programs.

Wilson has the support of the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Susan Davis of California, in his effort to find a way around budget rules that limit sources of funding.

“I am an optimist, and I believe we can do things,” Wilson said. “I’m not saying we can do it all, but that we can take some steps in the right direction.”

Wilson made no mention of finding money for another cause he has long supported: complete elimination of the offset in military retired pay for those also receiving veterans disability compensation.

Committee aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they have located possible sources of funding that Wilson and Davis could use, but they did not want to say more, out of fear that someone else might claim the money for another addition to the defense bill.

“Let’s just say that to get something, you have to give something, so we can find money if we are willing to cut, and we are willing to cut,” said one aide.

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Wilson expects to fund benefits improvements

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