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Veterans Groups Denounce Limited Cost-of-Living Boosts

April 18, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Veterans groups on Wednesday denounced a plan backed by the Reagan administration and Republican senators to limit cost-of-living increases for veterans’ benefits, saying it is ″completely unacceptable.″

A stream of veterans’ representatives told a House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee they favored Reagan’s original budget proposal for a 4.1 percent increases in benefits for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

But the latest compromise on the congressional budget resolution - designed to cut federal deficits - was not much to their liking.

David Passamaneck of AMVETS told the subcommittee that the deal agreed to by Reagan and GOP Senate leaders ignores the difference between veterans and other Americans.

Most people ″did not share the risks or make the sacrifices of veterans and their families,″ and therefore there should not be an equal sharing of cuts in programs for veterans and non-veterans, he said.

The compromise proposal, scheduled for Senate floor consideration next week, would reduce cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, for veterans in the same manner as proposed for Social Security.

The COLA would total 2 percent as long as inflation is 4 percent or less. If inflation is more than 4 percent, the benefits would be raised point-for- point for all rises above 4 percent.

Passamaneck called that arrangement ″completely unacceptable.″

Jean Arthurs, legislative director of the National Association of Military Widows, argued against any cuts, saying many who receive VA benefits rely on those check as their only form of support.

″The recipients ... have spent their lives supporting their servicemen by maintaining the family unit and contributing in every way possible to the success of his career and service. They are held in high esteem in their communities, are extremely patriotic and possess high moral virtue,″ Mrs. Arthurs said.

Geraldine B. Chittick of the Gold Star Wives of America said widows and other dependents of veterans have already made a sacrifice.

″The adjustment to living on severely decreased income is shared by every widow at the time she becomes a widow,″ Mrs. Chittick said, stressing the need for adjustment in rates paid to the lower-rank survivors.

She said to increase the gap in survivors’ payments between the highest and lowest ranks - now standing at $741 - would be wrong.

″To continue to further increase this spread between top and bottom is unconscionable,″ Mrs. Chittick said.

In contrast, the proposal in Reagan’s original proposal for a 4.1 percent COLA in both major types of VA benefits was praised.

Passamaneck of AMVETS said that ″is a welcome recognition of the special place deservedly occupied by veterans and their dependants in the order of priorities for governmental funding, even during a time of fiscal restraint.″

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