By Andrew Petrie | Point of View
As inflation and the cost of living for Arizonans continues to increase, so does the political bickering of elected officials. Many Arizonans are aware of the ongoing battle related to the potential merger of Kroger and Albertsons.
However, many might not be aware that the Arizona Attorney General, Kris Mayes, has thrust veterans into the center of the debate.
Mayes has identified the merger as a major cornerstone of veterans’ issues, in what some are pointing to as proof that she is ignorant of market trends and is merely engaging in political gamesmanship. Her loud and public disapproval of the merger has been met with bipartisan concern about her true motivations.
While it is true that many veterans are employed by Kroger and Albertsons and will be affected by the merger, many veterans, myself included, feel this is a trifling issue compared to the multitude of much more serious matters and concerns that veterans are facing with only a fraction of as much attention from elected officials as a grocery store merger.
One such issue is the barrier that many Post-9/11 veterans face accessing education benefits and ensuring that their chosen institution is and will remain accredited and eligible to accept their benefits.
This process is often navigated while the veteran is still transitioning back into civilian life, many times involving a long-distance move for them and their family. Another issue is veterans’ struggle to find adequate healthcare and take care of their mental well-being during this transitional period. For many, this is just the beginning of a lifelong struggle to access the benefits promised to them for their service to this nation.
More hurdles include navigating the most complex and ever-changing healthcare system in the world, addressing potential gaps in skills and qualifications obtained in the military, and adjusting from a structured military environment to a civilian academic setting.
She has also neglected to acknowledge the harsh reality of this year’s 3.2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to VA Disability Compensation and Social Security, a huge hit to veterans’ finances. This adjustment pales in comparison to the 8.7% and 5.9% increases of 2023 and 2022, respectively. This will not only impact veterans, but a huge portion of Americans at-large.
In fact, a fifth of all Americans —- those who are social security beneficiaries or retired civil servants —- will be impacted by these miniscule cost of living increases.
To put this year’s COLA increase into perspective, it means that a veteran with a 10% disability rating will only see a meager $5.31 increase in their monthly compensation. This increase hardly means the difference between surviving and thriving. AG Mayes must recognize and address these much more pressing needs in order to better serve Arizona veterans.
By and large, House Democrats are behind AG Mayes in her opposition to the merger.
This has only added fuel to the infighting. However, there is growing bipartisan questioning of AG Mayes’ handling of the issue. In that vein, many are not quick to forget the fact that House Democrats unanimously voted against abolishing food taxes in the most recent legislative session, a move which would have provided relief for Arizonans struggling to keep up with the cost of food.
AG Mayes has repeatedly touted her small-town values as a former resident of Prescott, yet her position on this merger hurts families in small and rural towns across the state as both Kroger and Albertsons will struggle to compete with larger competitors in addition to themselves. This irony should not be lost on veterans who are sadly and unjustly being used as pawns in a much larger political game of chess.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Petrie is an American veteran and resident of the Town of Gilbert.