170,000 Veterans May Lose Access To Food Stamps

Spend enough time out of your day listening to right-wing talk radio, reading conservative-leaning blogs, or attending parties thrown by red-staters, and your view of the world begins to morph. Environmentalists turn into terrorists, vegetarian becomes code for "weak-willed non-American," and bullies turn into a necessary evil required to build character and toughen our limp-wristed youth. But the biggest mental transition may take place when looking upon the less fortunate. Homeless people aren't victims of "the system," or really even in need of our help. They did this to themselves.

This mentality extends, predictably, to food stamp recipients.

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These are not folks who tripped and need a hand getting back up. They're lazy jerks crying for a handout. They waste their food stamp money on potato chips, spend their money money on drugs, and get high instead of going on job interviews. They are leeches on our society that need to be cut off.

This view is a trick of the mind that proponents of food stamp cuts need to get through their day. This blaming-the-victim mindset is vital if one is to stand in front of microphones, ask for $40 billion to be cut from the SNAP program, and do so without vomiting on reporters.

When reality is pitted up against the GOP's version of what's going on, all sorts of holes begin to show. A vast majority of SNAP-receiving households include children, the elderly, or the disabled. The benefits they actually receive is a whole lot less than can actually be lived off of. (Roughly $4 a day.) And, most of all, the recipients aren't a bunch of lazy drunks. In a lot of cases, they're U.S. veterans.

According to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- a non-profit group in Washington -- about 900,000 veterans, along with 5,000 active duty troops, rely on food stamp benefits to help put food on their tables. And if the House GOP's version of the farm bill is passed, roughly 170,000 of those veterans would be left without food stamps.

The reasons that vets utilize SNAP is multi-dimensional and, sadly, somewhat predictable:

Veterans returning home from service have more trouble finding work than other folks, and rely more heavily on the food stamp program. The unemployment rate for recent veterans--those who have served in the past decade--is about 10 percent, almost 3 points above the national unemployment rate. War-related disabilities are one reason why. About a quarter of recent veterans reported service-related disabilities in 2011. Households that have a disabled veteran who is unable to work are twice as likely to lack access to sufficient food than households without a disabled service member.

This is not the information you'll hear from House Republicans. Instead, you'll hear about the country's fiscal crisis, and the systemic failures of Big Government, and how their opinion about food stamp cuts is a complex one that needs to be considered with proper nuance and context. But those are simply ways to mask what's actually happening.

And that's if you are for cuts to the SNAP program, you are against American vets. It's that simple. There really isn't another way of looking at it.

But don't take it from me. Here's what San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, one of the most respected voices in all of sports, had to say during yesterday's Veterans Day celebrations about the GOP's determination to cut food stamps:

"In a lot of ways, it's a joyous day if we all remember to honor people. But in some ways, it's a sad day because (soldiers and veterans) don't really get honored the way they should be. Some of it is just pablum. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of what they need, they're really not getting everything.
"Just like the way it is right now -- how many vets might have to do without food stamps because of what's going on with the government right now? That program is huge to a lot of these families. I mean huge. It gets them through. And it may or may not be there -- who knows? -- because government is not very functional at this point, as we all know. So it's a day to reflect, to honor but also to not lose sight of the fact that a whole lot more has to be done with what they've done for all of us."

So just keep that in mind when members of the GOP start talking about gutting the SNAP program. What they're really talking about is gutting vets.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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