White House, Congress May Cut Disabled Veteran Benefits Twice

AARP continues our series of ads about the importance of Social Security. This week we focus on Americans with disabilities because the President and some in Congress stand willing to cut their benefits.  In fact, as AARP notes with more specifics below, if you're a man or women who defended this nation, your benefits might be slashed twice by the proposal known as Chained or superlative CPI.

Let's first talk about the dramatic dialogue that unfolded at the White House when longtime NPR reporter Mara Liasson asked a perfectly valid question about these very benefits.  Who knows why exactly White House Press Secretary Jay Carney lashed out at her?  But his actions seemed to demonstrate that Carney's role in disguising the White House's actual motives reached a breaking point. It's not a common assumption that being White House Press Secretary is easy, but hurling insults doesn't usually answer smart reporters' questions.

Here's what Mara Liasson asked with regard to the President's twice postponed budget: "On the budget, can we assume that the entitlement reform ideas - that are in the offer that you always say is still on the table - will be in his budget - Superlative [Chained] CPI, and the means testing of Medicare?"

In response to the question, Carney hurled a childish insult toward the White House press corps, in a feeble attempt to get them to stop asking about what matters to Americans.  He said "Mara, the way you phrase that question makes me think that you're still working on a typewriter or something.  [ Pounds the podium] It's available online.  The proposal is there.  It's not just that I say they're on the table.  They're on the table ..."

So how does this relate back to Americans with disabilities, and the ways that a cut in Social Security benefits would impact them?

Let's ignore the insult and look at what's available online.  It's a one-page document that says $130 billion would be cut from Social Security and veterans' benefits.  The White House insists they would carve out vulnerable Americans, but despite repeated attempts by reporters and outside groups, including AARP, the White House refuses to provide specifics about who exactly would be protected.  They won't tell anyone a thing, but they will hurl unique typewriter insults.  As Carney well knows, there are lots of things online, including one zillion cute animal videos, but nothing that tells us whose benefits the White House wants to cut.

Here's video of Tom Tarantino from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) at an AARP panel held this week on Capitol Hill saying the White House won't tell veterans what's what either.  I suspect Mr. Carney won't hurl an insult toward the fine men and women who defended our country, but it's arguably an insult that he won't tell them whether the White House wants to cut some veterans' benefits not once, but twice.

Video: AARP Chained CPI Panel - Tom Tarantino on White House's Indifference to Veteran Benefit Cuts

Below are AARP's top 5 reasons why the chained CPI would hurt people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities:

  1. People with disabilities can least afford a cut in benefits. On average, people with disabilities receive only $13,560 in yearly benefits and 37 percent depend on it for nearly all of their family income (90 percent or more).
  2. People with disabilities will face deep benefit cuts. The chained CPI would cut benefits more with every passing year, and people with disabilities - who rely on Social Security payments starting at a younger age and therefore for many more years - will see very deep cuts in benefits over time. A 35-year-old disabled worker who receives average disability benefits would see his or her benefits reduced annually by $886 at 65 and $1,301 at 80.
  3. People with disabilities have a greater chance of falling into poverty. Social Security keeps nearly 40 percent of people with disabilities age 18+ and their families out of poverty. The benefit cut would force those already living on tight budgets - stretched by rising prescription drug, utility and health care costs - to cut back on vital needs.
  4. It's less accurate. The chained CPI assumes that when the cost of something you normally buy goes up, you will substitute a lower-cost item. This theory falls short since many people with disabilities spend a large share of their income (around $4,200 a year on average for Medicare beneficiaries with at least one disability) on health care - which rises faster than inflation and doesn't have lower-cost substitutes.
  5. Disabled veterans would be hurt twice. Since Social Security and veterans benefits will both be cut by the chained CPI, disabled veterans would be hurt twice. By age 65, a 30-year-old veteran with severe disabilities would see his or her veterans' benefits reduced by $3,286/year and Social Security benefits reduced by $1,655/year.

To learn exactly what kind of cut the chained CPI would take out of your income, see AARP's chained CPI calculator here.


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