November 1, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz (center left) and Sarah Palin at the Million Vets March on Oct. 13. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Sen. Ted Cruz (center left) and Sarah Palin at the Million Vets March on Oct. 13. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Remember all the howling by Republicans about the closed monuments and war memorials during the Ted Cruz government shutdown? Remember how they helped World War II vets storm their memorial on the very first day? Remember how Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) snarled at a Park Service ranger for trying to abide by the law and keep the memorial closed to the public? Remember how the likes of Cruz and Sarah Palin railed against President Obama for the cuts to veterans’ benefits that resulted from the Cruz-caused shutdown?

“Our veterans should be above political games,” Cruz said at the Million Vets March on Oct. 13. “Veterans have proven they are not timid. And we will not be timid in calling out anybody that uses the military as pawns,” Palin said at the same event. “We can only be America, home of the free, if we are America, home of the brave.”

So, pardon the forthcoming blue language, where the hell are they now that a $5 billion cut to the food-stamp program has hit thousands of veterans squarely in their wallets?

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide lived in households that relied on SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] to provide food for their families in 2011, a previous analysis of Census data estimated.” The cuts to that benefit result from the expiration of a temporary increase in the food-stamp program through the Recovery Act of 2009. CBPP translated the economic impact of the benefit reduction into jaw-dropping dollars and cents.

The coming benefit cut will reduce SNAP benefits, which are already modest, for all households by 7 percent on average, or about $10 per person per month.  Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014 will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.

That CBPP analysis highlighted the importance of SNAP for veterans.

Many veterans returning from service face challenges in finding work.  While the overall unemployment rate for veterans is lower than the national average, the unemployment rate for recent veterans (serving in September 2001 to the present) remains high, at 10.1 percent in September 2013.  About one-quarter of recent veterans reported service-connected disabilities in 2011,[4] which can impact their ability to provide for their families:  households with a veteran with a disability that prevents them from working are about twice as likely to lack access to adequate food than households without a disabled member.[5]

Veterans who participate in SNAP tend to be young, but their ages range widely:  57 percent of the veterans in our analysis are under age 30, while 9 percent are aged 60 or older.

The cuts that go into effect today are nothing compared to the $39 billion cut to SNAP over the next 10 years approved by the House in September. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 2.8 million Americans would lose their food stamps next year under that legislation. Meanwhile, as Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org pointed out in a piece for the Huffington Post, there are pricey Pentagon projects the defense department doesn’t even want that Congress insists on funding.

Some of the things being said about SNAP recipients by Republicans to justify their cuts are beyond callous and mean-spirited. I bet they wouldn’t dare tell veterans on food stamps to their faces that they are lazy, undeserving of help and need to embrace a work ethic. No, they will do the next worse thing. On this issue, they will pretend “our veterans” don’t exist.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.