Veterans launch fight against possible benefit changes

2013-11-14T06:00:00Z 2013-11-14T11:15:38Z Veterans launch fight against possible benefit changesMIKE WISER Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

ANKENY | About three dozen military veterans met in the back of a VFW hall on the outskirts of Ankeny Wednesday in the hopes of affecting federal budget negotiations occurring more than a thousand miles away.

These vets and their supporters with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and other affiliated groups are worried about something called the chained CPI.

CPI is an acronym for Consumer Price Index, which is a measure of consumer goods and services that helps determine how much the cost of living increases over time. The chained CPI is an alternative index that is not currently in use by the federal government but is more frequently updated.

Proponents of the chained CPI say it more accurately reflects the cost of living and note it increases less over time, according to financial models.

It’s the latter fact that makes it attractive politicians in Washington, D.C., who are working on budget reductions. The same fact makes it anathema to the group gathered at VFW Post 9662.

“The problem is when you’re using the chained CPI, veteran pensions will go down, disability goes down and Social Security goes down,” said Ron Montgomery, a board member of the Iowa Alliance of Retired Americans.

Montgomery was one of four people who spoke at the gathering, which also served as a call to action.

Petitions were passed and exhortations made for each person to talk to their neighbors and friends about the chained CPI.

“We know budget talks are heating up again. We know we have a senator, Chuck Grassley, on the Senate Budget Committee,” Montgomery said. “We know we stand opposed to any changes that would reduce the benefits for those who served our country, and he needs to know that.”

The overall sentiment in the crowd was to place fault on congressional Republicans for their efforts to make cuts to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and for their efforts to adopt the chained CPI.

But Korean War veteran Don Rowan said it’s not as easy as dividing Congress by who has a “D” behind their name and who has an “R.”

“This isn’t just a one-party issue,” he said. “Chained CPI was in the budget that was put out by the president. … We have a whole year to talk about this and work at it so we can get the Congress we want.”

Grassley sent an email response after his office was contacted about the group’s concerns.

“Chained CPI would need careful consideration. It’s something President Obama proposed in his budget, since even he recognized that the current program is unsustainable for future generations without reforms,” Grassley said.

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