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SD vets’ food benefits decrease

By Northern Plains News Service

More than 4,000 South Dakota veterans could see their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits reduced Nov. 1 when the temporary increase in SNAP benefits runs out.

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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities did a state-by-state analysis of veterans living in SNAP households and released its report Monday.

According to the group’s study of past and current U.S. Census Bureau data, during any month, nearly a million veterans live in a household that relies on SNAP benefits to provide food for their families. Two states alone — Florida and Texas — each have more than 100,000 veterans who live in such households.

In the region, the group estimates South Dakota has 4,300 veterans living in SNAP households; North Dakota, 2,200; Iowa, 16,500; Minnesota, 14,700; Montana, 5,700; Nebraska 7,600; and Wyoming, 2,700.

“For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families,” according to the CBPP. “Many veterans returning from service face challenges finding work.”

The report notes that while the overall unemployment rate for veterans is lower than the national average, the rate is higher for recent veterans at 10.1 percent in September. Further, according to the report, 25 percent of recent veterans reported service-connected disabilities that can impact their ability to provide for their families.

The veterans in SNAP households tend to be younger, but their ages vary widely, according to the report. Nearly 60 percent of veterans were younger than 30, while nearly 10 percent were 60 or older.

The SNAP program is part of the farm bill, a new version of which Congress is considering. According to the CBPP, the current House version of the bill would cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years, denying benefits to nearly 4 million people in 2014 and an average of 3 million people each year over the next decade.

SNAP benefits are to decrease 7 percent on average or about $10 per person per month today, according to the group. The CBPP estimates the current average SNAP benefit is less than $1.40 per person per meal.