Veterans groups are rallying to fight any proposal to change disability payments as the federal government attempts to address its long-term debt problem. They say they’ve sacrificed already.
Government benefits are adjusted according to inflation, and President Barack Obama has endorsed using a slightly different measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits. Benefits still would grow but at a slower rate.
Advocates for the nation’s 22 million veterans fear that the alternative inflation measure also would apply to disability payments to nearly 4 million veterans as well as pension payments for an additional 500,000 low-income veterans and surviving families.
“I think veterans have already paid their fair share to support this nation,” said the American Legion’s Louis Celli. “They’ve paid it in lower wages while serving, they’ve paid it through their wounds and sacrifices on the battlefield and they’re paying it now as they try to recover from those wounds.”
Economists generally agree that projected long-term debt increases stemming largely from the growth in federal health care programs pose a threat to the country’s economic competitiveness. Addressing the threat means difficult decisions for lawmakers and pain for many constituents in the decades ahead.
But the veterans groups point out that their members bore the burden of a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past month, they’ve had news conferences on Capitol Hill and raised the issue in meetings with lawmakers and their staffs. They’ll be closely watching the unveiling of the president’s budget next month to see whether he continues to recommend the change.