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Is This How to Salute a Veteran?

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Co-authored with J. David Cox, chair of the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council and president of AFGE

Today we celebrate Veterans Day. Let's take this opportunity to honor the men and women who have served our nation to protect and defend the freedoms we all enjoy.

But we shouldn't just talk about "honor."

America's veterans need action, not words.

America's veterans need a funded and functioning federal government. And veterans need us to protect Social Security, disability benefits and military pensions.

Think of the Vietnam veteran who travels for hours to the nearest VA clinic to get a hearing aid to help compensate for the endless ringing in his ears from a long-ago grenade explosion. To the 22 million veterans in America, the VA is more than "the government." It's a vital earned benefit. And when Congress fails to fund the government and closes the VA, it's people like that Vietnam veteran who pay the price.

Because of the budget cuts known as "sequestration," more veterans are homeless, fewer veterans get help looking for work and tens of thousands of veterans have been furloughed.

The budget shutdown this fall kept veterans from visiting war memorials.

And think of the members of our armed services who gave their lives in service of our country and of our 3.2 million disabled veterans. And think of their families, the 350,000 spouses and children who live with a disabled veteran or who lost a loved one in battle. For those heroic individuals, earned Social Security benefits are a lifeline.

Any cut to Social Security benefits would make life harder for those families.

Lately, we have heard talk of "chained CPI" as a middle path for reforming Social Security. Don't believe it. Chained CPI is just a fancy way to say "cut" Social Security. For the average worker retiring at age 65, the chained CPI would cut Social Security benefits by $650 a year by age 75 and by roughly $1,130 a year at age 85.The picture is actually worse for military retirees, who would get hit multiple times by chained CPI. In addition to Social Security benefits, military pensions and VA disability benefits also would be cut by chained CPI.

Congress should never balance the budget on the backs of the men and women who already sacrificed for our country. And we should honor our sacred obligations to the spouses and children of our wounded and dead veterans by protecting their benefits, not cutting them.

Let's resolve this Veterans Day to do more than talk. The AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council stands alongside the VFW, the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America in opposition to chained CPI.

Let's make a stand together to end the sequestration cuts and to keep our government open, and let's reject any cuts to Social Security benefits, under any name and by any politician or any political party.