But in the past 25 years a growing veteran population has become increasingly powerful. Advocates for veterans are keenly aware of what they have to lose. The moment the debt deal was reached, lobbyists for Veterans of Foreign Wars started playing defense, contacting the offices of the 12 panel members and trying to identify potential committee staffers.
The organization is particularly concerned that the super committee may eliminate a special pension plan for those who serve more than 20 years in the military and increase prescription fees and premiums for veterans enrolled in Tricare.
The VFW is also working to save military quality-of-life programs and plans to use the exemption of veterans benefits to support the argument for protecting benefits during service, not just after.
Still, the group takes little comfort in its seemingly safe spot.
"The rules could change at any time," said Ryan Gallucci, VFW deputy legislative service director. "We think it's positive that the people who built the legislation identified veterans issues as important, but that in no way makes us comfortable about keeping them intact."
By Kogan's calculations, about $1.5 trillion in mandatory spending would be exempt from any cuts should the trigger go into effect. On the discretionary side, about $137 billion to pay military personnel would be exempt, along with about $78 billion for VA health care and Pell Grants.
The list is a reminder of how the political climate has changed. In today's hyperpartisan environment, a similar agreement on a set of sacred cows would have been next to impossible, said sources involved with the budget process. Furthermore, the frenzied weeks in which the debt deal came together were hardly enough time to revamp a list that took more than a year to fashion.
"They knew that if they started opening up the list that all of a sudden all hell would break loose," Kogan said.comments powered by Disqus