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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Spare vet programs the paring knife

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Overall unemployment numbers also fail to capture the desperate situation facing our young veterans ("Current unemployment numbers are misleading" Web, Aug. 20). Recent numbers have estimated that nearly 30 percent of young male veterans are unemployed. This is almost twice the number for nonveterans. It's only going to get worse: The military plans to cut roughly 140,000 active duty and reserve forces in the coming years, all while raising veterans' health care premiums by more than 300 percent to accommodate nearly $1 trillion in Department of Defense cuts mandated by Congress.

As more troops leave Afghanistan and re-enter civilian life, the federal government should help them land on their feet, not knock them off balance. That means protecting veterans' programs and keeping veterans' health care affordable, whether by rolling back some of the proposed defense budget cuts or trimming elsewhere in the Pentagon budget, if necessary.

Containing cost growth on the Joint Strike Fighter program -- a $1 trillion program that's already 75 percent overbudget -- could save billions of dollars. Or leaders could address bureaucratic inefficiencies that throw billions down the drain every year.

When it comes to cutting the deficit, veterans' programs should be last on the chopping block.

ANTHONY T. HAWKINS

National coordinator

Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust

Washington

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