Sanders tells leadership not to cut veterans' Social Security benefits

"The chained CPI has been referred to by Republicans and some Democrats in Washington as a ‘minor tweak,' but let's be clear: for millions of disabled veterans and seniors living on fixed incomes, the chained CPI is a significant benefit cut that will make it harder for permanently disabled veterans and the elderly to make ends meet," Sanders said in a statement Friday.

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Sanders said the proposed cuts, part of a deficit reduction plan pushed by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and investment banker and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, would lead to significant reductions in veterans' benefits, hurting the more than 3.2 million veterans who currently receive VA disability compensation payments.

Sanders sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday, ahead of the Veterans Day holiday on Sunday. In the letter, he said wouldn’t support legislation that used a chained CPI to determine benefits. Instead, Sanders supports a proposal that would raise benefits for people with disabilities and seniors by accounting for the greater inflation in costs for healthcare and prescription drugs.

In the letter, he cited the Social Security Administration, which said enacting the chained CPI would mean that permanently disabled veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by more than $1,300 a year at age 45; $1,800 a year at age 55; and $2,260 a year at age 65.

Fifty organizations representing veterans, seniors and people with disabilities signed onto the letter.

“We all agree the nation’s debt problem must be addressed,” the letter stated. “… Americans do not believe it should be addressed by increasing the burdens on our oldest and most vulnerable citizens. We urge you to protect their hard-earned benefits by opposing the chained CPI and supporting a more accurate inflation measurement for the elderly, which factors in the disproportionate amount seniors spend on healthcare. This is crucially important not only for seniors, but for their children and grandchildren as well.”

Lawmakers are talking about a "grand bargain" to reduce the deficit and simplify the tax codes. Sanders, a long-time advocate for not cutting Social Security benefits, has expressed concern that changes to the Social Security program could be included in a major package.