Monday, December 31, 2012

WILL CONGRESS THROW VETERANS UNDER THE BUS?


NCPSSM.org
What has sadly been lost this week amid all the chatter about the so-called fiscal cliff is the fact that members of Congress are already threatening to throw our veterans under the bus. And it is nothing short of despicable.

Back in September, I reported for Newsweek/The Daily Beast that an unidentified Senator tried to block disabled veterans and their survivors from getting a cost-of-living adjustment to their benefits. The Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, which typically passes the House and Senate without opposition, was cleared by Senate Democrats but was unconscionably placed on a “secret hold” by an unidentified Republican senator.


Under obscure and preposterous Senate rules, a single Senator can anonymously keep a bill from advancing toward a vote with what is called a “secret hold.” The senator in this case was never identified - though several off-the-record sources told me who he was. I wish I could tell you all so you could flood his office with angry emails and letters. 


Anyway, that Senator eventually dropped the hold and the measure, HR 4114, which provides a meager 1.9 percent increase in disability benefits for veterans and surviving spouses, matching the planned increase in Social Security benefits, was ultimately approved on Nov. 13, the first day the Senate reconvened. 


But now, according to several reports, Congress may decide to slash these fundamental benefits. According to a statement on the website of Bergmann & Moore, a respected law firm that solely represents veteran disability cases, Congress could cut these benefits by thousands of dollars, which would be disastrous, especially for disabled veterans and their families living on a fixed income.


As the Washington Post reports, 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, then $2,341 at age 55, and then $3,231 at age 65, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Rick Maze at Army Times also covered this issue, which has sparked understandable outrage among veterans and veteran advocates. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the incoming Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has denounced this absurdly misguided austerity measure. 


“We must do deficit reduction, but not by cutting programs for people who lost arms, legs and eyes defending our country,” said Sanders.


When the House passed the COLA bill in July, House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said, “Veterans have enough to worry about without the added stress of not knowing if their cost-of-living adjustments will be held up in a political tug-of-war. We have an obligation to the men and women who served this nation to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep the promise made to them.”


Sanders and Miller are both correct. While these two pols rarely agree on anything, they recognize that maintaining our veterans' disability benefits should never be a partisan issue. 


So, as you read all the reports this week about the so-called fiscal cliff, don't forget that Congress is already threatening to throw our veterans under the bus. And if this bothers you as much as it bothers me, contact your area representative in the House and the Senate and tell them, in no uncertain terms, that this just isn't right.


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  1. Congress is holding disabled vets hostage... this is SHAMEFUL.

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