WASHINGTON — A cut to military retirement pay in the budget signed Thursday by President Barack Obama has already triggered such a backlash that Congress may vote in January to toss it out.

Some lawmakers who represent districts with a military presence — and who voted for the overall budget — are vowing to overturn the pension change as soon as the House and the Senate reconvene Friday. Several House and Senate lawmakers in both parties, responding to heavy lobbying from advocates for service members and veterans, already have introduced bills that would restore full cost-of-living increases for military retirees of working age.

Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., have introduced a bill that would restore the annual cost-of-living adjustment for about 800,000 enlisted troops and officers who retire in their early 40s, then take other jobs outside the military. In the budget passed this month, the COLA for working-age retirees was reduced by 1 percentage point; once the retirees turn 62, they go back to receiving the full increase.

The cut is expected to save the government about $6 billion over 10 years, and it is set to be phased in over three years. Davis and Fitzpatrick’s bill would find the savings instead by asking the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on Americans who file fraudulent claims for child tax credits.

“I think we need to make the fix right now,” said Davis, whose Illinois district includes many former service members and employees at nearby Scott Air Force Base.

Breaking a promise

At a meet-and-greet with constituents in his district recently, many voters were livid at the pension cut, Davis said. To them and him, he said, the federal government is unfairly breaking a promise it made to service members.

“A lot of people joined the military and made huge sacrifices because they were promised a benefit,” he said. “To go back on that is wrong.”

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., said she is partnering with Fitzpatrick on the legislation.

“I believe that this is a fix the Republican conference can rally around,” she said in a statement one day after the budget was approved. “In my opinion, it should be the first item on the docket for 2014.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who is up for reelection next year, has introduced a bill to replace the $6 billion saved by the COLA cut by instead “eliminating a tax loophole for offshore corporations,” a news release from her office said.

Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., James Inhofe, Okla., Lindsey Graham, S.C., and others also have come out against the COLA cut.

On Dec. 23, Reps. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., and Ted Poe, R-Texas, introduced similar measures that would repeal the provision.

“As a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I believe our servicemembers, veterans, and their families must receive the benefits they have earned and deserve,” Brownley said in a statement. “These benefits are owed to them without equivocation. That is why I have introduced legislation to repeal the military retiree COLA reduction.”

It is unclear whether either proposal includes cuts to offset the elimination of the COLA savings.

Even lawmakers who support the COLA cut agree that the provision should be changed to exempt at least disabled veterans who were forced to retire for medical reasons, as well as survivors.

The budget legislation also requires newly hired civilian federal employees to contribute more to their pensions.

(1) comment


After reading Paul Ryan's Oped in USA Today: "Retirement pay can't take over defense budget" it is clearly obvious that he and Patty Murray just don't get it. The "Real Issue" with their plan to reduce the Military Retirement COLA is "The Principal Of The Thing", its about Honor and Keeping Your Word. The U.S. Government had a Contract with the Veterans for their service, The Veterans kept their end of the bargain and now the Government wants to refuse to live up to their obligations in the deal after the job has already been done. The Orwellian idea that an employee should forfeit their hard earned retirement for the betterment of their employer, sounds more like a policy of the foreign regimes that the Troops have spent their careers defending the United States against. Our U.S Government Elected Officials wrap themselves in Red, White & Blue and Shout "Support the Troops", but appallingly "Picked the Pockets" of those same Afghanistan & Iraq Combat Era Veterans when they thought no one was looking by their vote to reduce Veterans Military Retirement Benefits. They have turned their back on those servicemen they hail, to avoid having to pay the bill for the promise made to Servicemen when they joined up that they would be "GRANDFATHERED" for any changes to the retirement system. The President has done the same by signing into Law their "Bait & Switch" Bill they just passed taking back the Annual Military Retirement COLA promised to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, & Coast Guardsmen of this country who volunteered to fight & support the decade long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in case the Congress and the President have forgotten. Those same American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, & Coast Guardsmen serve because the man or woman next to him or her is depending on them. They share an unmatched level of trust in one another, and are truly each others Guardian Angels. This is only the beginning of the assault on their hard earned benefits. Veterans must remember what they can expect from the same folks that during the government shutdown denied an array of financial benefits including death gratuity payments to the families of troops killed in combat, training, or by other causes in the military, until finally a private foundation Fisher House stood up to do what was right and take care of the U.S. Government's Responsibility to the men & women in uniform because the politicians would not. Vague assurances of correcting the problem in the future by Congress hold little weight based on their past performances. Honor it seems has no meaning anymore to our U.S Government Elected Officials or the sacrifices of the troops as they are stiffing the troops on paying the tab for a job well done. I do not have the words to express my disillusionment with my own government after having served over 30 years of military service in Combat Rescue for stealing the money out of the pockets of those 1% of the population fighting for their country that I helped rescue overseas who are being singled out unfairly to bear the brunt of paying the Federal Government's Bills after all they have done for America.

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