Vet clout

PRESIDENT Reagan's proposal to elevate the Veterans Administration into a Cabinet-level department may have a lot of political appeal. Little wonder: There are about 28 million veterans in the United States. And they vote. Still, the plan is unnecessary and should be given thumbs down. Budgeted at $27 billion, the VA is already the largest independent agency in Washington.

Mr. Reagan, remember, was highly upset back in the early 1980s about what he saw as an unfortunate proliferation in the number of Cabinet-level departments. He talked about scuttling the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, both created during the Carter years. Now here he is proposing a new Cabinet post of his own.

The reason? Momentum is building in Congress for the move now endorsed by the White House - putting this agency in the Cabinet. Proponents believe that step would insulate its budget from the deficit trimmers.

The underlying issue is really about power. But merely hobnobbing with the Washington Cabinet crowd doesn't ensure clout. The Federal Reserve Board, a quasi-independent agency, lacks Cabinet status but nonetheless possesses megapower.

The Veterans Administration already has clout to spare. And an ally in the Cabinet. That ally is the Pentagon, which, when last we noted, also spoke out on issues affecting people in - or once in - uniforms.

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