Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and leaders of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veterans' organizations today denounced proposals to cut veterans' disability benefits as part of a year-end deal on deficits.
A member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and the Budget Committee, Sanders said there are better approaches to deficit reduction than slashing benefits for more than 3 million disabled veterans and their families.
"We must do deficit reduction, but not by cutting programs for people who lost arms, legs and eyes defending our country," Sanders said. "We must not balance the budget on the backs of men and women who already sacrificed for us in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Sanders' point was echoed by the nation's leading veterans' organizations.
"The American Legion understands the need to restore fiscal discipline, but it should not be done by reneging on this country's promises to its veterans who already have earned these benefits through their service to our country," James Koutz, the American Legion national commander, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.
"America's heroes deserve better from a grateful and caring nation," Barry A. Jesinoski concluded in a letter on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and Gold Star wives were among 18 veterans' organizations that signed a separate letter to congressional leaders calling on them to restore fiscal discipline "without reneging on this country's promises to veterans."
A change in how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated could mean that veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In addition to disabled veterans, more than 55 million retirees, widows, orphans and disabled Americans could be affected by the switch to a so-called chained CPI, or consumer price index. According to the Social Security Administration, the change would result in $112 billion in reduced Social Security benefits over 10 years. The typical Social Security recipient who retires at age 65 would get $653 less a year at age 75 and would get $1,139 less a year at age 85 than under current law.