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John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institute, said veterans are only an untouchable group when people are paying attention, such as now when new information about the problems at the VA are in the news every day.

“It’s very hard when attention is being focused on what matters for these groups for people to say no, for people to up and argue for budget cuts,” he said. “When people aren’t looking, there are politicians who have no problem cutting budgets for these groups.”

Mr. Edwards said the high cost and the uncertainty in the CBO estimate may suggest Congress is moving too quickly to fix problems without a clear idea of what’s wrong.

“The CBO clearly says this is a wild guess that they’re making at the cost so that is one which is really rare,” he said. “For me, that’s one caution that Congress should not be rushing to spend tens of billions more unless they really know what they’re doing.”