Republican Party plans to slash Social Security benefits and to privatize the program in order to pay for trillions in tax cuts for the rich will hurt the country's veterans, according to a new report from Social Security Works, a coalition of labor, civil rights, and advocacy organizations.
Right now, 9 million veterans, or 40 percent of all former service members, get some Social Security benefits. According to the report, veterans receive an average of $1,289.
In fact, Social Security benefits extend to millions of spouses and children of veterans as well.
Almost 800,000 veterans receive Social Security disability benefits, with an additional 2 million or more spouses and children eligible as well.
The 6,000 service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have left behind over 4,000 children who are eligible for survivors' benefits and life insurance through Social Security programs.
Testimony gathered from veterans for the Social Security Works report suggested that veterans and their families who receive Social Security benefits depend on those resources to get by. Even the smallest cuts would be devastating for them and their families.
For example, Vivian Johnson is the widow of Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Johnson, an Army helicopter crewmember who was killed in Iraq in 2007. "When he was killed," Vivian recalls, "I was working part-time, but his salary is what supported our family. Today, over 40 percent of our income is from Social Security." The rest comes from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mrs. Johnson said her family's standard of living would be dramatically hurt if Social Security benefits were cut.
The report quotes her as saying, "It is not the children's fault," she says. "We already sacrificed our loved one. He sacrificed his life - and in a way, a big part of ours - for this country. He had faith the country would take care of his beloved family if he didn't come back from the war."
"It is an insult to our fallen warriors and to those still fighting that our government would even consider reducing benefits for families like ours," she said.
The report also told the story of Sarah Slayton, the widowed mother of two children. She survives on Social Security benefits, her full-time job and her disabled son's Supplemental Security Income benefits. Her husband died while on active duty in the Army at Fort Carson, Colorado. Social Security provides about 40 percent of her income, but her resources are always stretched to the limit.
"If Congress wants to do something about government spending," she said, "then maybe they should help single parents go back to school and better themselves, maybe give them a way to feed their kids while they're doing it. [Members of Congress considering benefit cuts] are not thinking about these children at all."
The report has been endorsed by a dozen veterans and military families organizations, as well as Social Security advocacy groups. These groups joined a campaign calling on constituents to send the report on the value Social Security to veterans and their families to their members of Congress. The groups hope the report will educate the legislators on the need to protect the program rather than to cut its benefits or undermine it. Readers can sign the petition here.
Photo: Mark Sardella // CC 2.0