Veterans concerned about talk of spending cuts

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - As Republicans push for more spending cuts as part of the state's budget, veterans worry their services could be on the chopping block.

"I couldn't afford this kind of help on my own," said Ben Carr, who has lived in the state-run Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg for almost a year.

As some lawmakers push for spending cuts to close a $450 million budget hole, Carr hopes veteran services are spared.

"That should be the first priority is to take care of the veterans," Carr said.

We caught up with Veterans Assistance Cabinet Secretary Dennis Davis during his tour of the facility Tuesday. We asked him about concerns that veteran services could be on the chopping block.

"Looking at the 'alternative budget,' we would no longer receive state funding for these facilities such as the one you're in now," Davis said.

Governor Justice's Save Our State proposal relies heavily on tax increases, but the 'alternative budget' he rolled out earlier this month includes more than $8 million in cuts from the Department of Veterans Assistance. The department's current budget sits at about $10.3 million.

"In my view, the 'alternative budget' proposals put forth were scare tactics by the governor's office to suggest Doomsday scenarios if we did not accept drastically increased taxes upon the citizens of West Virginia," Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R) said.

He and other Republican lawmakers insist veterans would not be left behind.

In a statement to 5 News, the Governor's office wrote:

"The Governor's Save Our State Budget will protect veterans. If West Virginia goes the other way, and we keep cutting and constricting, it will mean leaving our veterans in the cold. The Governor's S.O.S budget is a pathway to protecting our veterans and giving them the services they've earned."

In the video above, 5 News asked Secretary Davis about the Mountain State 22 program, an initiative launched by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to curb suicides among veterans.