Friday, March 22, 2013

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Charles E. Schumer Support a Fair Veterans COLA

As your constituent I write with concerns about your views on one provision in the budget resolution, a bill before the Senate this week that would fund the operations of the federal government for fiscal year 2014.

It seems to me the COLA issue for veterans benefits has the potential to be a hostage annually in budget negotiations.  This is a budget item that should not be used as a bargaining chip or as a way to cut the budget.

One of the provisions would substitute a new formula for calculation of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for Social Security and veterans benefits payments.  Alleged to be more accurate, the new method will reduce future COLAs by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.  I believe this change is unfair to sick, elderly and disabled veterans, and should not be enacted into law.

In recent years, it has become apparent that even the current COLA has failed to meet the rising costs faced by disabled veterans, their dependents and survivors.  These men and women are not traditional consumers of goods and services in the U.S. economy; they are significantly older and suffer disabilities at higher rates than average citizens across the age range of residents of this country.  In general, they are heavy consumers of health care, both within the VA and DOD systems, from Medicare and Medicaid, and from private sector providers.  The sickest and most infirm among them are unemployable.  They are substantial consumers of prescription medications and other health aids.  In many cases, they live on fixed incomes and some must subsist on a single source of income: their monthly government disability or pension payment.  The current COLA does not even take into account the rising costs of food or fuel.  Lowering VA benefit payments using a new formula designed to reduce federal spending at large seems an unconscionable policy and would threaten their financial security and must be rejected.  In addition, we urge you to examine whether there are better, more appropriate indexes that recognize the uniqueness of this population's needs and consumption patterns. 

Furthermore, these millions of disabled veterans, dependents and survivors suffer the additional indignity of the novel "rounding down" policy Congress imposed in 1991 as a "temporary" means to lower the federal deficit in fiscal year 1992 by reducing the annual COLA increase to the next-lower dollar.  Adding a chained CPI formula to this reduction of benefits would serve to lower their standard of living even more, an ironic reversal of the very purposes of these payments.

I ask that you stand in firm support of Senator Sanders' amendment, which would create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to protect disabled veterans and their dependents and survivors by not enacting the chained CPI to disability payments for veterans, dependents and survivors of veterans.  America's heroes deserve your support and the support of a grateful and caring nation.



Please inform me of the actions you take in response to my request.


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Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Email: Sean.Eagan@gmail.com
Phone:  716 720-4000 
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