Republicans will salute America's veterans Monday, while simultaneously trying to deny them benefits. In addition to reducing housing aid, and denying health care to vets, the GOP is also trying to remove thousands of vets from the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
At least 900,000 veterans rely on SNAP. The House Republican version of the farm bill, the five-year piece of legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture provisions, would slash funding for the food stamps program by nearly $40 billion and boot 2.8 million people off the program next year. That includes 170,000 veterans, who would be removed through a provision in the bill that would eliminate food stamps eligibility for non-elderly jobless adults who can't find work or an opening in a job training program.
This month, SNAP funding was reduced by $5 billion as extra stimulus money for the program expired. While the Senate will never approve the $40 billion in further cuts to the food stamps program that House Republicans want, deeper cuts are pretty much inevitable. The two chambers are in the middle of negotiating a final version of the farm bill, which will contain food stamp reductions somewhere in between the $4 billion level the Senate wants and the level the Republicans want.
Whatever the final number, veterans will likely feel the pinch.
Even though jobs were added, the unemployment rate increased a tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent. This is because of the way job growth is tallied. As Catherine Rampell explained at the New York Times last month:
The jobs report is based on two different surveys—one of households, and one of employers—and it turns out that furloughed federal government workers will be treated as unemployed in the first survey but employed in the second. In other words, the temporary layoff of federal workers will probably increase the unemployment rate, but not (at least directly) depress the payroll job growth numbers.
The House and Senate are in the middle of ironing out the differences between their two separate versions of the farm bill, the $1 trillion piece of legislation that funds agriculture and nutrition programs. The House GOP is fighting to maintain the $40 billion in cuts its bill makes to the food stamp program—a move that would force 4 million low-income people off food aid—while claiming the moral high ground. And there are other hypocritical provisions in the House Republicans' farm bill. Here are four:
Meanwhile, the House bill doles out the most generous farm subsidies in history, most of which go to the wealthiest farmers and agribusiness. And while the Senate farm bill fully eliminates the $5 billion direct payment program, which pays farmers who don't grow anything, the House bill retains direct payments to cotton farmers for two years, a move that is projected to cost $823 million. Even safety-net cutter extraordinaire, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) admitted to the New York Times in July, "Right now, the federal government favors the big guy over the little guy."
The GOP has gleefully jumped on media reports about Americans having their health insurance plans nixed because of Obamacare. "Obama lied. My health plan died," conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote in September, referring to President Barack Obama's promise that people who liked their health insurance plans could keep them. But how many Americans' health plans would receive some form of cancellation notice if GOP hardliners got their wish and repealed Obamacare? Probably at least 137 million.
Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a case brought by Julie Heimeshoff, a Walmart employee who sued the company and its insurance provider in 2010 for refusing to pay her disability benefits. Heimeshoff worked at Walmart for nearly 20 years, most recently as a public relations manager. About 10 years ago, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, lupus, and other chronic pain problems, and in June 2005, the pain became so severe that she had to stop working. Heimeshoff applied for disability benefits and, after a long internal review, her claim was denied. She sued over the denial of benefits less than three years later. That was within the statute of limitations—or so she thought.
When Heimeshoff started working for Walmart, she signed a contract saying that if she were ever denied disability benefits, she could only sue the company for wrongful denial of benefits if she did so within three years of filing her disability claim. But the US government and consumer lawyers say that Walmart's contract is bunk, because established law stipulates that the clock doesn't start ticking on those three years until an employee's claim for benefits is improperly denied. A ruling in Walmart's favor could make it more difficult for millions of workers—not just people who work for Walmart—to obtain disability benefits.
Walmart's argument is "crazy," Arthur Bryant, executive director of the public interest law firm Public Justice, wrote earlier in October. He explained that "every first-year law student learns that statutes of limitations, which set a time limit on how long a person has to sue, don't start running—can't start running, as a matter of common sense—until a person suffers a wrong and could actually file a case in court."
It's "a fundamental rule of law, establishedby the Supreme Court…that has been in place for two centuries," says Matt Wessler, the attorney who argued on behalf of Heimeshoff before the high court. "The only way this can change is where Congress itself says so…Walmart is nevertheless trying to change it itself."