Alan Simpson, the GOP co-chairman of President Obama's fiscal commission, on Tuesday questioned some disability benefits paid to war veterans, saying they are "not helping" the nation's debt crisis.
Simpson, an Army veteran and former chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, specifically questioned automatic disability awards to those affected by the defoliant Agent Orange, which the U.S. used during the Vietnam War. Simpson said the payments don't mesh with his panel's goal of reducing the debt.
The ex-senator came under fire last week for comparing Social Security to a "milk cow with 310 million tits." Several liberal Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups have called for his resignation, creating an unwanted controversy for the fiscal panel, which is expected to make its recommendations for reducing the growth of the federal deficit in December.
His remarks could again stoke anger among critics — they came on the same day Obama gave a major address on the end of the combat mission in Iraq, citing increased benefits for healthcare and education, especially to treat mental ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it," the president said.
According to the AP, Simpson declined to say whether the fiscal commission would take up the matter.
The panel has already been under intense pressure from lawmakers in both political parties, who are worried the commission will propose either drastic spending cuts or tax increases to reduce the nation's growing debt.
But there is concern about the issue among some key lawmakers.
The chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), told the AP on Tuesday he will address the broader issue of such disability payments at a hearing previously scheduled for Sept. 23.