When Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy previewed the House Republicans’ debt ceiling and budget cuts proposal at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, he insisted that “we make sure that our veterans and our service members are taken care of.” The bill he introduced Wednesday that ties lifting the debt limit to draconian budget cuts absolutely, positively hurts veterans and service members and their families. This when both groups are already struggling to put food on the table and to get the health care and services they need.
There are many complex reasons why the military community is more vulnerable to food insecurity than the general population. The pay isn’t awful for a single person, but for many active duty families, the only paycheck is from the service member. The Department of Defense itself has set a floor for military pay at 130% of federal poverty guidelines, or about $29,940 a year for a three-person family, but that’s often all they have to live on. The frequent moves families have to make mean that military spouses have a hard time finding work, much less establishing careers.
Reentry into civilian life is hard for veterans, who are more likely than the general population to experience mental illness, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or to have other disabilities as a result of their service. This all makes them likelier to be unhoused and have low-wage jobs, and less likely to receive regular, adequate health care than the civilian population.
Almost 25% of active duty troops say they live with food insecurity, according to a 2022 Defense Department report included in a Wall Street Journal analysis. Department of Agriculture data shows that about 11% of working-age veterans experience food insecurity. Almost 14% of veterans in rural areas experience food insecurity, according to a Veterans Affairs study.
McCarthy’s bill would slash spending across the board to fiscal year 2022 levels. That would mean about $130 billion of spending cuts for 2024 overall. Veterans Administration Secretary Denis McDonough testified to Congress this week that going back to 2022 funding would mean as much as a $26.7 billion reduction for his agency. That translates into 13 million fewer health care visits, longer benefit wait times, and staffing cuts that would delay and reduce all veterans programs.
This would exacerbate already untenable economic problems for veterans, who along with active duty military personnel are already hit harder by food insecurity than the population at large. So would the proposed changes McCarthy has for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps).
The program already has work requirements for people ages 18 to 49 who don’t have dependents, but McCarthy wants to raise that work requirement age to 56, which will accomplish one thing: making more people, including veterans, go hungry.
"It's pretty foreseeable that this is going to lead to more food hardship," Ellen Vollinger, SNAP director for the Food Research and Action Center, told NPR. "It doesn't do anything to improve people's employability. ... It's just going to take food away from people that are unable to meet the documented requirements.
Feeding America’s experience shows that those estimates are optimistic. It’s the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, and 20% of the households it supports include a veteran or someone who has served in the military.
Pre-pandemic, there were 1.2 million veterans living in households that participated in SNAP, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or have disabilities, SNAP provides essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families,” CBPP says.
Almost all of this information is from studies done between 2017 and 2020, before the pandemic and before post-pandemic inflation. The full impact of that event on food insecurity for veterans and military families is still unknown, but a National Institutes of Health study from 2022 found that nearly one-third (32.6%) of the post-9/11 veterans it surveyed were food insecure.
McCarthy and team want to make this all worse, much worse. They’re happy to sacrifice the well-being of veterans–even active duty troops–if it means they can wreck the whole economy on President Joe Biden’s watch and blame it on him.
Markos and Kerry are joined by Aaron Rupar today to discuss what he is seeing in the right-wing media landscape. Rupar is an independent journalist whose Public Notice Substack is a must-read for those who want to know how truly outrageous the conservative movement is. We are addicted to his Twitter account, with its never-ending stream of Republican lunacy all captured on video.