The incoming chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, joined by the leaders of a number of veteran groups, attacked proposals that would cut disability benefits for veterans as part of a budget deal during a news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

“We must do deficit reduction, but not by cutting programs for people who lost arms, legs and eyes defending our country,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), who is replacing Sen. Patty Murray as chairman of the Senate committee. “We must not balance the budget on the backs of men and women who already sacrificed for us in Iraq and Afghanistan.” 

Among the plans being considered by the White House and Congress as budget deficit negotiations continues are ones that would change how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for most federal entitlement programs, including the 3.2 million veterans receiving disability compensation.

A change in how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated could mean that veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Leaders from four veterans organizations spoke out against the proposal at the news conference, and representatives from 15 other groups also attended the event.

“The men and women who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are the ones who have done the sacrificing,” said Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The proposal “will only hurt American veterans and their families,” said Dean Stoline, deputy legislative director for the American Legion.

Sanders said the deficit can be reduced by increasing taxes on corporations that he paid little or no taxes. “What about asking those guys to pay a little more,” he said.