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Veterans Fight to Stop Changes to Disability Payments

Posted on Apr 08, 2013

Our disabled veterans have sacrificed their own health for our country. Veteran advocacy groups say that is enough. 

In order to reach a budget agreement, President Barack Obama recently endorsed using a slightly different measure of inflation to calculate Social Security disability benefits. Veteran’s groups are concerned that the government will also use the new inflation measure when determining cost of living increases for Veteran’s Administration disability payments and pensions. 

The new method, the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), measures changes in consumption as prices go up. The price of steak is often used as an example.

When inflation happens, the price of steak increases. A conventional CPI measures the difference in the cost of steak before and after inflation. A chained CPI supposes that when steak prices increase, consumers will buy chicken. Supporters of a chained CPI say the method is a truer indication of inflation. 

What’s the real difference? Inflation rises at a slower rate under a chained CPI. This means that cost of living increases are smaller. Under the current conventional inflation update, monthly disability and pension payments for veterans increased 1.7 percent this year. Under chained CPI, the same payments would have increased by 1.4 percent. The differences are small at first, but they add up over time. A $3 a month change this year would add up to a difference of more than $2,300 a year over 25 years.

Veteran’s advocates say that our disabled veterans have sacrificed already and deserve the benefits they were promised. They believe that using the Veteran’s Administration benefits to balance the budget breaks the promises our country has made to our armed forces. They also say it’s hard to switch to chicken when your budget barely allows chicken, much less steak. About one-third of disabled veterans live solely on a pension of just over $1,000 a month.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law