Government considering reduction of veterans' benefits

A measure to reduce the amount of disability benefits paid to veterans in the future has many veterans worried that they are being asked to sacrifice for their country -- after already risking their lives in the military. The measure, endorsed by the White House, would tie future increases in veterans' benefits to a different, more conservative way of measuring inflation, leading to an estimated $340 billion in reduced benefits over the next 10 years.

Like many other government benefits, payments to veterans who were disabled in the service or who are low-income are increased annually to account for inflation. The White House has given approval to an idea to change the formula used to calculate that increase to one called "chained CPI." CPI stands for Consumer Price Index. The regular CPI tracks changes in the price of a fixed "shopping list" of retail items to calculate rising costs. Chained CPI adds changes in the quantity of goods purchased. That way, it tracks how consumers may compensate when certain items become too expensive by buying cheaper alternatives instead.

Inflation as measured by chained CPI is generally lower than under conventional CPI. If veterans' benefits had been tied to chained CPI, they would have gone up 1.4 percent this year instead of 1.7 percent.

That may seem like a minor decrease, but the lost benefits would add up, especially for relatively young veterans, opponents say. Critics in veterans groups say that veterans made financial sacrifices by taking lower incomes to join the military as well as bodily ones and that it is unfair to ask them to take less money twice.

Source: WUSA-TV, "Veterans Fight White House On 'Especially Absurd' Cuts To Disability Benefits," April 1, 2013