The White House has said it will consult with veterans' groups before recommending any major changes in the Veterans Administration's medical benefit programs.
In a hastily called meeting last month, presidential assistant John A. Svahn assured representatives from veterans' groups that a White House task force studying the federal health care system will not curb veterans' medical benefits without first seeking their advice.
Svahn called the session after news reports revealed that his task force had asked the VA to determine how much it could save by cutting from the rolls 90 percent of the veterans now eligible for free medical care.
Svahn explained that the task force was merely checking every possible savings. A larger group of veterans later met with VA Administrator Harry N. Walters, who assured veterans that he will fight any unnecessary trimming of the VA budget by the Office of Management and Budget.
Walters told the veterans that he had been invited to the Cabinet's next meeting on the budget.
The OMB is expected to notify the VA of its decisions on the fiscal 1986 budget proposal on Dec. 17. Insiders said they expect the administration to seek an across-the-board freeze and cuts in construction funds. GRIDIRON RAH-RAH . . .
As veterans' groups fret over possible budget cuts, the VA became embroiled in another controversy last week: choosing sides in the Army-Navy football game.
Walters' interest in Army football dates to the 1950s when he was a star fullback on West Point's much-heralded "lonely-end" football team. So no one was surprised when a poster appeared on his office door proclaiming, "Middies -- Breakfast of Champions," a reference to Naval Academy midshipmen. War was declared when a "Sink Army" sign was posted in the office of Deputy Administrator Everett Alvarez Jr., a former Navy pilot. Soon football posters were competing for space with portraits of former administrators on 10th-floor walls.
The coup de grace came when unidentified Navy supporters issued an official-looking press release that claimed that Walters had seen the error of his ways and switched sides. WEARING TWO HATS . . .
Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) is expected to continue as chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee even though he has been selected Senate majority whip. Committee counsel Anthony J. Principi said Simpson had not made a final decision, but said it "appears unlikely" that he will give up the committee chair.
Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), ranking minority member of the committee, held both jobs from 1977 to 1980. If Simpson does step down, the likely new chairman would be Sen. Frank H. Murkowski of Alaska, a relative unknown in veterans' circles. HELPING CONTRAS . . .
An ambitious fund-raising campaign launched last year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to buy food, medical and other nonmilitary supplies for rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua raised only $2,033. The amount was so small that the VFW agreed in May to send the funds to the American Red Cross rather than the rebels.
James Currieo, former commander-in-chief of the VFW, had led the group's campaign to help the rebels through a "Humanitarian/Truth Fund for Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters." He predicted last year that the campaign would raise $50,000 to $75,000 from the group's 2 million members.