‘Take Care of Our Heroes,’ VFW Commander Says

WASHINGTON, March 5 – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today asked the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars about a proposal to cut benefits for disabled veterans and their survivors.

“Our disabled veterans have given enough,” John E. Hamilton told Sanders during testimony on the VFW’s legislative priorities before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. “Take care of our heroes,” he added to applause from the packed Senate hearing room.

Sanders has led opposition in Congress to reducing benefits for disabled veterans, their survivors and Social Security recipients. A so-called chained CPI would change how the consumer price index is calculated in a way that would significantly lower annual cost-of-living adjustments.

The proposed change would affect more than 3.2 million disabled veterans receiving disability compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 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. More than 55 million retirees, widows, orphans and disabled Americans on Social Security also would be affected by the switch to a so-called chained CPI.

The proposal to lower benefits has been advanced by House Republicans and embraced by some Democrats. The White House as recently as last Sunday said that President Barack Obama would consider the chained CPI. Senior economic adviser Gene Sperling said on the CNN program “State of the Union” that Obama raised the issue during calls to lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.