The Independent Budget: Policy Road Map that Delivers for All Veterans
The Independent Budget (IB) won’t top the New York Times Best-Seller list, but it’s very important reading for those who serve our nation’s 22.7 million veterans.
“It’s an extremely useful tool because of the depth of our policy discussion,” said Carl Blake, Paralyzed Veterans of America National Legislation Program director. “It’s a complete budget and policy discussion by veterans for veterans.”
The Independent Budget, which turned 25 this year, is coauthored by four veterans service organizations: AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The fiscal year 2012 edition contains 242 pages of intense policy discussion with detailed analysis and recommended budgets for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It has become the definitive source for congressional and presidential advisers.
“It’s our budget and policy bible in our dealings with Congress,” Blake said. “It informs members of Congress, their staffs, and the Administration.”
The Independent Budget is also widely read by veterans and veterans advocates at all levels. “The benefit of The Independent Budget is that it’s so in depth on a broad range of issues that it’s hard to find an issue for veterans not covered in it,” he said.
“It’s a great educational tool for people not familiar with issues in VA,” he added. “Anyone interested in veterans issues should read it to understand what the issues are and how they’re evolving.”
Numerous organizations endorse The Independent Budget for a variety of reasons. Many have broad concerns about veterans’ issues, and others have very specific ones. Among the 57 organizations or offices that endorsed The Independent Budget for FY 2012 are the African American Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Association, the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Psychological Association, the Brain Injury Association of America and the National Disability Rights Network.
The Independent Budget covers seven main issue areas: benefits; medical care; general operating expenses; judicial review; construction programs; education, employment and training; and the National Cemetery Administration. More important, it unifies the message of the authoring veterans service organizations.
“What The Independent Budget has done is create a unified forum for four major organizations to work together,” Blake said. “It gives us something to hold onto to unify us on issues.
“As a partnership, our advocacy is stronger than as individuals. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Patrick McCallister is a reporter in Florida and frequent contributor to PN Magazine.