Opinion

No Hunger for California Heroes

No Hunger for California Heroes

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Hunger is a serious problem in America today.

Due to the Great Recession, and slower-than-expected economic recovery, approximately 50 million people nationwide – including one in five children – regularly struggle against hunger.

While hunger is a travesty in any family, it is especially disconcerting to see the number of hungry veterans and families of active-duty personnel. In 2011, approximately 1.5 million veterans, living in households with a net income below the federal poverty level, received food assistance. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than $100 million in food stamps were redeemed at military commissary stores in 2012.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), referred to as CalFresh in California, provides food assistance to low-income families, including low-income veteran and military families. Since San Diego County has more veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than any other county in the nation, and has seen no relief in its high unemployment rates, it is essential that we protect and strengthen the SNAP program as well as correct administrative barriers that limit access. This is why I authored SB 134, the No Hunger for Heroes Act, signed by Governor Brown, which increases food security for California’s veterans.

In particular, SB 134 prevents counties from denying food assistance to unemployed veterans and instructs counties to refer veterans to their local county veterans service officers and other veterans’ assistance and job training agencies. Through these referrals, out-of-work veterans are more likely to receive support. These agencies provide mental health and other services, facilitate access to federally funded veteran re-training programs, and reduce the need for county administered assistance programs.

SB 134 is California’s contribution towards a necessary safety-net for veterans and their families as they return to a slowly recovering economy. Regrettably, even with this in place many returning military personnel will still find themselves unable to work due to injuries sustained during their service. In addition, delays in the federal Veterans Administration’s process of determining disabilities will cause many veterans to wait, sometimes up to a year, without the ability to work and/or without access to disability benefits. For these veterans, the SNAP program may be the only option saving them from chronic hunger.

A recent vote at the federal level to cut $40 billion to SNAP benefits over the next 10 years threatens the effectiveness of SB 134. I am both thankful to and proud of San Diego Reps. Juan Vargas, Susan Davis and Scott Peters for standing strong against these cuts. I am further encouraged to see H.R. 2038, known as the Disabled Veterans Nutrition Fairness Act of 2013, recently introduced by Reps. Vargas and Jackie Speier, which would strengthen the ability of SNAP to respond to hunger among disabled veterans while their disability claims are pending with the VA office.

Hunger is an indignity no one should experience, especially not those who have risked their lives to serve our country. We need to continue building our defense against hunger and develop thoughtful policies that maximize support for our veterans.

A recent report by the Little Hoover Commission validates the need for California to invest in ways that will allow us to effectively leverage federal dollars to benefit our veterans. As Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, we have already begun working on these issues and will continue our efforts to ensure that returning veterans are welcomed home with opportunity and not hardship.

Ben Hueso is a California state senator, representing the 40th District. Hueso’s commentary has been edited for clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here. Want to respond? Submit a commentary.

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12 comments
Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Politicians love spending other peoples money for votes. 70% of what is spent on SNAP is debt placed on children that will hamper their success. Does Hueso hate children? Is that why he wants to spend them into third world status. You want to free up money for vets? Stop giving it to illegal aliens, http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/09/16/undocumented-la-county-parents-projected-to-receive-650m-in-welfare-benefits/Undocumented LA County Parents On Pace To Receive $650M In Welfare Benefitshttp://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/09/16/undocumented-la-county-parents-projected-to-receive-650m-in-welfare-benefits/LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) - A projected $650 million in welfare benefits will be distributed to illegal alien parents in 2013, county officials said Monday. Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich announced the latest figures from the Department of Public Soc...

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Politicians love spending other peoples money for votes. 70% of what is spent on SNAP is debt placed on children that will hamper their success. Does Hueso hate children? Is that why he wants to spend them into third world status. You want to free up money for vets? Stop giving it to illegal aliens, http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/09/16/undocumented-la-county-parents-projected-to-receive-650m-in-welfare-benefits/Undocumented LA County Parents On Pace To Receive $650M In Welfare Benefitshttp://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/09/16/undocumented-la-county-parents-projected-to-receive-650m-in-welfare-benefits/LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) - A projected $650 million in welfare benefits will be distributed to illegal alien parents in 2013, county officials said Monday. Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich announced the latest figures from the Department of Public Soc...

Joe Jones
Joe Jones

What utterly cynical nonsense. First, someone please tell Mr. Hueso to read this week's latest unemployment reports. Far from showing "no relief," the county's unemployment rate is declining, mirroring the economic recovery so proudly proclaimed by the state's (Democratic) governor. What's not declining is the skyrocketing increase in SNAP recipients--a 150% increase in the last 5 years. The idea that a significant number of SNAP recipients are people "who have risked their lives" in defense of their country is ludicrous. A very small proportion of veterans have served in combat, and Mr. Hueso offers not a shred of evidence as to the number of these people supposedly at risk of losing benefits. I don't mind a well reasoned argument in support of any position, but emotional platitudes don't qualify.

Joe Jones
Joe Jones subscriber

What utterly cynical nonsense. First, someone please tell Mr. Hueso to read this week's latest unemployment reports. Far from showing "no relief," the county's unemployment rate is declining, mirroring the economic recovery so proudly proclaimed by the state's (Democratic) governor. What's not declining is the skyrocketing increase in SNAP recipients--a 150% increase in the last 5 years. The idea that a significant number of SNAP recipients are people "who have risked their lives" in defense of their country is ludicrous. A very small proportion of veterans have served in combat, and Mr. Hueso offers not a shred of evidence as to the number of these people supposedly at risk of losing benefits. I don't mind a well reasoned argument in support of any position, but emotional platitudes don't qualify.

Carrie Schneider
Carrie Schneider

Here's a quote from your linked story: "benefits and food stamps combined have been distributed through July to illegal alien parents for their native-born children." In other words, the benefits are going to American citizens.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt

Excellent point Jim. I'm all in favor of assistance for vets. As for the VAST majority of other people, I'm sick of paying for their sh*t!

Carrie Schneider
Carrie Schneider subscribermember

Here's a quote from your linked story: "benefits and food stamps combined have been distributed through July to illegal alien parents for their native-born children." In other words, the benefits are going to American citizens.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt subscriber

Excellent point Jim. I'm all in favor of assistance for vets. As for the VAST majority of other people, I'm sick of paying for their sh*t!

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The real issue there is we also have no idea if these funds even go to the children, there is an article showing how food stamps money is sent to other countries, buying booze and luxuries, etc... I saw a woman using an EBT card in line in front of me using a $600 phone and driving a $25,000 car. It's a broken system, bloated way beyond the helping of the needy, a system that buys votes for democrats, and the democrats only care about keeping that system going for political power, not about vets, it's just an excuse for the corruption.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt

Which just points to an even greater problem - anchor babies.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The real issue there is we also have no idea if these funds even go to the children, there is an article showing how food stamps money is sent to other countries, buying booze and luxuries, etc... I saw a woman using an EBT card in line in front of me using a $600 phone and driving a $25,000 car. It's a broken system, bloated way beyond the helping of the needy, a system that buys votes for democrats, and the democrats only care about keeping that system going for political power, not about vets, it's just an excuse for the corruption.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt subscriber

Which just points to an even greater problem - anchor babies.