Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Proposed Deficit Cuts Target Seniors, Veterans, People with Disabilities, Those on Social Security

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Reducing the deficit is a top priority in Washington and one option being considered would cut benefits for veterans, people with disabilities, and those receiving Social Security.

It's part of a little known and little understood change to the way cost-of-living increases are calculated. The proposed method is called Chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) and is included in President Barack Obama's proposed budget plan. It assumes that people can choose lower cost items if prices rise.

Veteran Bill Burchette says the economic principle doesn't add up in real life.

"If the cost of steak goes up, then you can buy chicken or turkey," he says. "We're already on chicken and turkey, and some of us are not even eating that."

AARP estimates that switching to chained CPI would cost seniors and veterans a combined $146 billion over the next 10 years.

Right now 62-year-olds receiving $900 a month in benefits would lose a total of $32,000 by the time they are 90.

Florida's economy stands to lose too, according to AARP Florida. If chained CPI was put into effect, the state would see a $9 billion reduction in benefits over the next 10 years.

It's money that could otherwise be spent in the state's economy, explains AARP state director Jeff Johnson.

"That's a big picture concern," he says. "But more than anything, we really are concerned with the little pictures. Every individual, particularly those who live longer, women, they won't have enough in their Social Security benefit to keep them out of poverty."

Burchette served 27 years in the Air Force Reserve and says he's disappointed in this policy proposal.

"That's a slam against the people that served this country and served it well," he says. "Served it at times when they didn't really believe in what some of our politicians were doing - but our nation called and said this is the right thing to do, and that's what we did."

According to an AARP survey, 87 percent of Floridians age 50 and over oppose changing the way the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment is calculated.

Supporters of chained CPI say it will help make the system solvent and reduce the federal deficit.

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