BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 7 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today strongly disagreed with a proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to cut Social Security and disabled veterans’ benefits to pay for more defense spending.
Ryan has resurrected a discredited plan to change the formula that the federal government uses for calculating annual cost-of-living adjustments. According to published reports, Ryan said he wants to boost the Pentagon budget by taking what he called “savings” in Social Security and other programs pegged to annual adjustments in the consumer price index.
Ryan’s so-called chained consumer price index, or chained CPI, would adopt a formula that would intentionally undercount inflation and result in significant cuts for Social Security recipients and disabled veterans.
“Let’s be clear,” said Sanders, a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, “the chained CPI that Congressman Ryan supports is nothing less than a massive cut in benefits for Social Security recipients and disabled veterans.”
At a time when senior poverty is going up, Sanders said Social Security benefits should be expanded, not cut. The Ryan chained-CPI plan would cut Social Security benefits by more than $120 billion over 10 years. The average Social Security recipient who retires at age 65 would get $658 less a year at age 75 and would receive over $1,100 less a year at age 85 than under current law.
In addition to serving on the Budget Committee, Sanders chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Every major veterans organization in the country has been very clear on this issue. They are vigorously opposed to enacting a chained-CPI which would slash benefits for millions of disabled veterans and surviving spouses. Cutting the benefits of disabled veterans to pay for an increase in defense spending may make sense to Paul Ryan, but it does not make sense to me.”
A chained CPI would make substantial cuts to benefits of more than 3 million disabled veterans. The largest cuts would impact young, permanently disabled veterans who were seriously wounded in combat. It would also impact more than 350,000 survivors who receive service-connected death benefits. 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.