An estimated 900,000 U.S. military veterans will lose some or all of their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits on Friday. According to Think Progress, the program — more commonly known as food stamps — will be cut by $5 billion thanks to budget shortfalls caused by the Nov. 1 expiration of 2009 stimulus funding initiated by President Barack Obama.
Veteran pilot and Iraq War soldier Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org told Raw Story that the cuts coming Friday are unnecessary and unconscionable. Duckworth called the cuts “unacceptable” and Soltz questioned why Republicans in Congress are so “hell-bent” on hurting people in need.
“Cutting assistance to veterans is completely unacceptable,” said Rep. Duckworth. “Congress needs to find ways to cut costs, but compromising our care to veterans is not one of them. We must honor those who served our country and continue to provide the benefits they need. I am hopeful that my colleagues can come together and right this wrong by reinstating funds to the SNAP program to help our veterans.”
Soltz told Raw Story, “It’s revolting that so many men and women who served this nation in uniform are about to be cut off of the help they need the most for them and their families. What’s wholly irresponsible is for the Republican Congress to repeatedly reject the idea of a conference committee to pass a budget, which would help at least stabilize the economy, so many of these families could get off SNAP, and then turn around and fight to cut their SNAP benefits too. I don’t know why they are so hell-bent on hurting the American troops, veterans, and their families who are in need.”
A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that nearly 48 million people in the U.S. receive some form of nutritional assistance.
“Nationwide, in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide lived in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families in 2011,” said the report. Some Republican-led states like Texas and Florida each have more than 100,000 veterans who need assistance.
Bryce Covert at Think Progress wrote that veterans face special challenges upon returning from duty. Veterans returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, significantly higher than the current national rate of 7.2 percent. Approximately 1 in 10 disabled veterans was unemployed in 2010. The veteran population is significantly more likely to live in poverty in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Washington Post reported that the cuts coming on Friday Nov. 1 could be just the beginning if the Republican-led House chooses to gut the program further in upcoming farm bills. “This week, the House and Senate will resume their haggling over a five-year farm bill. The main point of contention, as before, is over how much to pare back the food-stamp program,” wrote the Post‘s Brad Plumer.
Image via Tammy Duckworth’s Flickr Photostream, Creative Commons licensed