My name is Andrew Palmer, and I am a United States Army veteran. I served honorably for seven years, and survived three long tours in Iraq. 3 years ago, I decided to pursue a different lifestyle for myself and my family.
I am currently enrolled in college, and because of that, I am receiving Chapter 30 Montgomery G.I. bill benefits. Unfortunately, I am also unemployed, as the job I held in the military (Intelligence Analyst) is not in high demand in the civilian sector. Due to my financial situation, I am also receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits (SNAP AKA Food Stamps). I am not proud of it, but in these tough economic times, I have to do whatever I can to support my family of 6 and ensure that I am able to put food on the table every month.
I recently moved to Pennsylvania. Prior to this, I was living in Arizona, where G.I. Bill income is not counted towards SNAP calculations. I received the max benefit for my family size, and everyone in the household (including myself and my wife) received medical assistance benefits. After moving to Pennsylvania, I discovered that in this state, G.I. Bill benefits aren't just counted, they are considered UNEARNED income, depriving my family of the 20% earned income deduction afforded to other families whose income is derived from a more "traditional" source. I only receive approximately half of the benefits I was receiving in Arizona, and my wife and I no longer qualify for medical assistance. This has made it much more difficult to ensure my family's welfare is provided for.
My petition is based on two complaints. First off, G.I. Bill income is indeed earned. These are benefits that I fought for and paid for with my very own blood and sweat. They were earned long before I even reached the point in my life that I am now able to use them. They were earned during 12-hour-long overnight shifts at a overseas base entry control point. They were earned every time I woke up in the middle of the night and had to run for the shelter of a concrete barrier because of incoming mortar fire. They were earned when I participated in a 3-day ground assault convoy from Mosul, Iraq to Kuwait as a machine gunner on the back of a Humvee, the whole time exposed to the threat of enemy fire at any time. It was earned every time I woke up in the morning for seven years, put on my Army uniform, and went to work protecting the people of the United States of America.
I recently discovered that a family that lives in the same town that I live in and makes MORE that I do in income every month AND has fewer family members, receives the max benefits for their household size and everyone in the household receives medical assistance benefits. I feel that I am being penalized for my decision not to work, but instead rely on my G.I. Bill benefits that I EARNED by serving in the U.S. Army to go to college and make a better life for my family. These benefits are designed to enable a veteran to not have to divide their time and attention between both work and school while transitioning into a different career.
The USDA needs to stop the madness, and help myself and the thousands of other veterans who are struggling to raise a family and get a better education. Create a standardized policy across the board for EVERY state to stop counting G.I. Bill benefits as unearned income in SNAP calculations. Or, even better yet, stop including them in SNAP calculations altogether, as Arizona has already successfully done. Don't leave choices about veterans benefits up to each state. We fought for the entire United States, we should receive the same treatment no matter which state we choose to make our home.