Sanders opposes cost-of-living reductions

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will hold a press conference Dec. 19 on Capitol Hill to highlight his opposition to using the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI) in determining the cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for disability compensation and pensions for veterans and their survivors, paid out by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The proposal to use the C-CPI emerged from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which claims the move could save the federal government more than $200 billion over the next decade. Savings would accrue from reduced payments for disability benefits, Social Security, pensions and other benefits.

In a Dec. 14 letter sent to House of Representatives leadership, American Legion National Commander James Koutz warned that using the C-CPI “would have significant deleterious effects on the benefits millions of veterans depend on... .” Social Security retirement benefits, VA disability compensation and VA pension benefits would all suffer from the CBO plan.

Referring to a cut in Social Security COLA as “misguided public policy,” Koutz reminded the House leadership that Social Security “belongs to its contributors... . To use it to reduce the federal deficit, which it did not cause, breaks the promise of Social Security and it could have harmful effects on the recruitment and retention of the Armed Forces.”

VA service-connected disability benefits – and pension benefits – would also suffer from the plan. Veterans who receive such benefits would see them reduced by thousands of dollars over the span of their lives.

Koutz noted the current COLA formula “already understates the true cost-of-living increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities, because it does not take into account their higher share of spending devoted to health care... . Adopting the chained CPI would make their situations much worse over time.”

Sanders, set to become the new chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has scheduled his press conference for 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 19 in Room 418, Senate Russell Office Building in Washington. Several of the Legion’s legislative staff will attend.