Dean Stoline, deputy director of the Legion’s Legislative Division, speaks at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ press conference on Dec. 19 in Washington. (Photo by Craig Roberts)

Cost-of-living benefits threatened

If the chained-Consumer Price Index (C-CPI) is adopted as the federal measure for the cost-of-living allowance (COLA), Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., predicted the outcome would be "an absolute disaster." The incoming chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee voiced his views on the issue Dec. 19, during a press conference in Washington.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently proposed that COLA increases be linked to the C-CPI as a means of saving more than $200 billion federal dollars over the next 10 years in reduced benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration. The American Legion opposes the plan as a "misguided public policy" that "would have significant deleterious effects on the benefits of millions of veterans ...."

According to a press release from Sanders’ office, the CBO proposal would cut VA disability benefits for a 30-year-old veteran by more than $13,000 a year by age 45, $1,800 a year by age 55, and $2,260 a year by age 65. Senior citizens who retire by age 65 would see their Social Security benefits reduced by about $650 a year by the time they reach 75, and more than $1,000 a year when they turn 85.

"I challenge anyone who supports a chained-CPI to go to Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center)," Sanders said. "Visit with the men and women who have lost their legs, lost their arms, lost their eyesight as a result of their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. We made a promise to these veterans. Cutting their COLA’s would be reneging on those promises, and we cannot let that happen."

Dean Stoline, deputy legislative director of The American Legion, also spoke at the press conference. He warned that CBO’s plan would have a far greater effect on the economic security of many veterans and their families "because the VA programs for service-connected disability compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and VA pensions also use the same COLA percentage adjustment as Social Security."

Stoline said that if the C-CPI proposal is enacted by law, it "will result in lower lifetime earned benefits for millions of veterans. For example, today, more than 3.2 million veterans receive VA disability compensation benefits and over 310,000 veterans receive VA pension benefits."

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz sent a letter to leaders in the House of Representatives on Dec. 14, reminding them that the current COLA formula "already understates the true cost-of-living increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities .... Adopting the chained-CPI would make their situations much worse over time."

For those who characterize the C-CPI plan as a "minor tweak," Sanders said it is "a significant benefit cut that will make it harder for permanently disabled veterans and the elderly to feed their families, heat their homes, pay for their prescription drugs and make ends meet. This misguided proposal must be vigorously opposed."

Read more about the press conference on Senator Sanders website.


  1. This is another example of how some (avaricious) government official incumbents with (abusive authority) relinquish on their promise to provide our veterans with much needed benefits they fought and worked diligently for, that is, by their loyal service to their country and the nation. This (break of mutual trust on the part of GOVERNMENT'S commitment to fulfill its responsibility to our nation's warriors) is indefensible and inexcusable. This is also a comparative analogy with veterans (of retirement age), whom are also recipients of Social Security, and may have dependents they conscientiously need to support. "COLA" compromise benefits reduction, (or worse still), elimination is in effect stealing from our nation's Social Security and Veterans' Administration recipients, whom have EARNED these entitlements, and which are NOT welfare "handouts" or charity! These benefits are "PAID IN FULL"! Second Congressional District Congressman Michael H. Michaud (D-ME) had emailed me an encouraging statement (in the latter part of 2012) explaining that veterans' benefits would be exempt from sequestration in 2013, and therefore, vets could be consoled with some comfort that their benefit entitlements would NOT be compromised (e.g. reductions or elimination). As I make this comment on "Add [a] new comment" of the American Legion's featured article entitled "Cost-of-living benefits threatened" page (of) "December 20, 2012" Congressman Michaud's promise has been kept. I can't say the same for the rest of our nation's lawmakers (both Democrats and Republicans. Unquestionably some of our elected (federal government) officials are attempting to the task of "selling us out" of our veterans and Social Security recipients' benefits. WE CAN'T LET THIS HAPPEN! Prompt action on the part of our veterans' and Social Security recipients is urgently needed to BLOCK this outrageous endeavor on the part of (many, but NOT all)lawmakers in Congress! Social Security, (Medicare, Medicaid), and Veterans' Administration benefits must NOT be subject to any form, or part of sequestration that would deprive eligible recipients from partaking what they have EARNED!
  2. If the goverment would allow various programs pork barell etc to be cut this would give back monies which could be used for future colas. When will our politicans ever understand that veterans rights are veterans right bought for in many ways, and please not to be messed with Thank you joe cohen american leigon member from hastings-on-hudson ny
  3. Cost of Living. I believe "COLA" should be discontinued for everyone who receives a government check, social security and all government pensions. The private sector for the most part, has done away with COLA, including pensions. With the our national debt skyrocketing, the time to remember and heed J.F. Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Yes, it will impact me as I receive a social security check.
  4. With that logic, why should anyone get a pension, private or government sector? How will one live with no financial rescourses, what did they work for, and why are their savings targeted? I sacrificed over 20 years for my county, and nearly my life. I'm sure JFK wouldn't have asked more from me than that.
  5. I would like someone to explain to me, why the possibility exists on losing part or most of my VA Compensation, when I chose this option in lieu of my Army Retirement which could not be touched as it was earned during my military career? Also, why despite wise investing in an individual retirement account (as an example), would the government (VA in this case) be able to make adjustments to the veteran's income or compensation benefits? If I had known that this was possible, I would have opted for the Army Retirement instead! I am not a lawyer, but this surly could be considered a breach of contract to a service member or their family.
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