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No Holiday for Veterans and Others Who Will Lose Food Assistance

Many job-hunting veterans risk losing food assistance in the coming year, due to changes in state legislation. Credit: Duboix/morguefile.com
Many job-hunting veterans risk losing food assistance in the coming year, due to changes in state legislation. Credit: Duboix/morguefile.com
July 2, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - This weekend, many will feast on summer delights and give thanks to those who have fought for our nation. But those who work to combat hunger say there is not much to celebrate in upcoming changes to safety net programs that serve many veterans and other Missourians.

The legislation will make it harder for childless adults to receive more than three months' access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in times of high unemployment.

Glenn Koenen is chairman of the hunger task force for Empower Missouri and he says veterans will be hit particularly hard, because many often fall into a grey area.

"They have limitations, but they're not disabled enough to qualify for Social Security, disability, or other benefits."

The measure is expected to cut between 50,000 and 100,000 Missourians from food assistance beginning in January 2016.

Lawmakers who supported the measure say it is designed to eliminate fraud, save money, and help encourage Missourians to return to work, however analysts predict the measure will actually increase administrative costs.

Koenen says he finds the notion that veterans in particular would choose to be unemployed, insulting. He says with the state still struggling to recover from the recession, many veterans returned home to jobs that no longer exist and need time and support to build new skills.

"Here we have people who risked their life for their country, who have given years out of their life to serve us, and as a result, they're probably a little bit more likely to need the food stamps while they try to find a job," he says. "It's so sad that people who have served us, we can't help them."

Koenen says he hopes Missourians will consider opening their hearts and cupboards, because the loss of SNAP benefits at the end of the year will place an additional burden on food pantries, which often bridge the gap when food stamps run out toward the end of the month.

"If all of a sudden we're going to have 50 to 100,000 Missourians who have no other place to get food, that pantry model of supplementing doesn't work as well," says Koenen. "You can't get by giving a 3-day supply of food to somebody who needs a 30-day supply of food."

About 45,000 Missouri households that presently receive SNAP benefits include a veteran. Right now the average food stamp benefit in Missouri is roughly $120 per month for an adult.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO