How ironic that, as our nation prepares to honor those who’ve served in America’s military on this Veterans Day, some in Washington are proposing benefit cuts targeting millions of military retirees and disabled veterans. A coalition of veterans, seniors, and disability organizations has mobilized in opposition to proposals which would change the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA), cutting benefits to pay down the debt.

Social Security is the largest program serving veterans and their families. Over 9 million veterans receive Social Security benefits—four out of ten veterans. The chained CPI will be a double benefit cut for veterans who receive both Social Security and VA benefits.

– The Chained CPI cuts benefits and raises taxes, largely on the poor and middle class, totaling $208 billion over ten years.  $112 billion in benefits cuts come from Social Security alone with up to $24 billion coming from VA benefits and civilian and military retirement pay cuts.

The National Committee has organized a coalition of more than 50 national organizations to urge Congress to oppose passage of the Chained CPI. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined us on a media conference call to detail the real-life impact this COLA change would have on millions of average Americans, especially retired military.

“This Sunday is Veterans Day – a special day to honor the men and women who have bravely served our country. It is also a time to remember the promises we have made to our nation’s wounded warriors and to keep those promises,” said Sanders.  “The chained CPI has been referred to by Republicans and some Democrats in Washington as a ‘minor tweak,’ but let’s be clear: for millions of disabled veterans and seniors living on fixed incomes, the chained CPI is a significant benefit cut that will make it harder for permanently disabled veterans and the elderly to make ends meet,” Sanders continued.

 “A chained CPI has a very insidious effect on retired pay by reducing cost-of-living adjustments by about one-quarter of a percentage point each year. Although that doesn’t sound like much, the compounding effect over a retiree’s lifetime is significant, especially for military and disabled retirees because they start drawing inflation-adjusted pay at relatively younger ages.”… Herb Rosenbleeth, National Executive Director, Jewish War Veterans of the USA

“A Chained CPI would cut important benefits to disabled veterans, military retirees, their families and their survivors from the World Wars to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As a nation, we share a solemn obligation to help those who honorably served and their families keep pace with inflation, not to erode their quality of life.” Rick Jones, Legislative Director, National Association for Uniformed Services

More than 50 national organizations representing veterans, military retirees, retired federal workers, seniors, and people with disabilities have also signed a letter to members of Congress urging them to oppose cutting benefits through passage of the chained CPI. In addition to cutting veterans benefits, the chained CPI would mean a benefit cut of $130 per years for the typical 65-year old retirees growing exponentially to a $1,400 cut after 30 years of retirement.

“Targeting the oldest of America’s retirees, including our veterans, for benefit cuts they simply can not afford is neither honorable nor responsible. The chained CPI is a backdoor benefit cut and tax increase which politicians hope to pass off on average Americans to pay for tax cuts the wealthy don’t need. Congress needs to recognize the long term, negative impact this decision carries with it. We’re talking about placing more financial stress on people who have served their country, their communities and their families. Are they really who Congress should be aiming for?”…Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

“The chained CPI would especially hurt people with disabilities, who often rely on Social Security or Supplemental Security Income to survive and may need benefits for many years. Cuts from the chained CPI will add up over the years at an alarming rate and make it increasingly hard for people with disabilities to live in the community and pay for essentials like housing, utilities, clothing, and food.” … Marty Ford, Policy Director, The Arc of the United States

“The chained-CPI proposal amounts to a tax increase for America’s seniors, who are living on fixed incomes. After our nation’s retired federal employees served their country for decades – including many who also served in the military – it is wrong to shortchange them with lowballed cost-of-living adjustments.” …Joseph A. Beaudoin, President, NARFE

A copy of the joint letter to Congress is posted on the National Committee’s website.