Seniors, veterans and other advocacy groups including Paralyzed Veterans of America attended a summit on Capitol Hill Wednesday, May 8, 2013, to voice their opposition to a proposal to reduce the $845 billion federal deficit by cutting Social Security.
The summit, hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and several other House and Senate Democrats, drew hundreds of opponents to the Chained CPI proposal, which would reduce benefits by adopting the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) formula for determining cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, for recipients.
Participants went from the rally to their respective lawmakers’ offices to ask them to oppose the chained CPI and other proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare.
“What we’re doing is supporting the broader efforts of a lot of coalitions to keep the heat on Congress to not include any chained CPI component in the grand budget bargain,” said Susan Prokop, associate advocacy director at Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The chained CPI is not a technical fix as it’s being portrayed. It will do serious damage to people who really can’t stretch their dollars any more than they currently are.”
The cuts were included in President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal, released last month. Under this formula, millions of veterans receiving Social Security retirement benefits, VA disability compensation and VA pension benefits would face significant cuts.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that adopting the chained CPI to calculate annual COLAs would save the government $208 billion over ten years by reducing Social Security, disability and other benefits, and by increasing revenues. More than half of that amount -- $112 billion – would come from Social Security cuts, which veterans rely on for both retirement and disability benefits. Another $24 billion in savings would come from veterans' VA benefits, civilian pensions and military retirement pay.
More specifically, the chained CPI would mean that permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits from the Veterans Administration at age 30, for example, would see their benefits cut by more than $1,400 a year at age 45, $2,300 a year at age 55, and $3,200 a year at age 65, according to a press release on the summit.
Sanders and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, late last month introduced a joint resolution in opposition to the chained CPI proposal. The resolution has since gained 17 co-sponsors. A companion resolution introduced in the House by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., has 87 co-sponsors.
“If there’s any message here, it’s just for advocates to keep the pressure on to support the Harkin-Cicilline resolutions and convey similar sentiments to the White House,” Prokop said.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America's efforts on behalf of all people with disabilities
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.