Changes to food stamps could hurt veterans, Congress members say

Photo credit Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Foley

Proposed changes to the federal food stamp program could harm veterans, members of Congress said in a letter to the Trump administration this week.

About 1.4 million veterans live in households that use food stamps, though studies show of the veterans eligible, about one in three are using the program. 

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also nearly twice as likely to be food insecure than the general population. 

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, led a group of 39 members of Congress in writing a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, saying that proposed eligibility restrictions on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) could have a harmful effect on veterans and their families.

Proposed changes to the food stamp program include narrowing who could be eligible, based on income and assets such as savings, which members of Congress said could make it more difficult for veterans to qualify for the assistance "putting their health and wellbeing at risk." 

The proposed change could mean as many as 3.1 million people -- including veterans -- would lose access to food stamps and more than 500,000 children could lose access to free school meals. 

“USDA should be doing more to increase SNAP participation for veterans who experience food insecurity, rather than proposing new restrictions that worsen hunger among those who have made great sacrifices for our country,” members of Congress wrote in the letter. “Eliminating categorical eligibility risks the wellbeing of thousands of veterans at a time when we should be doing more to help them. Those who have served our country deserve better.”

Members also said the change could have a "disproportionate" effect on families including someone with a disability.

"Households with a disabled veteran are nearly twice as likely to be food insecure as households that don't have someone with a disability," members wrote. 

In the letter, Congress members asked the USDA to provide information on the number of veterans using SNAP and how many would be affected by the change, to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett