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Legion battles Congress in COLA wars

Featured in Legislative Center
Legion battles Congress in COLA wars

The American Legion has been wearing down the marble hallways on Capitol Hill, paying daily visits to senators and representatives, urging them to repeal cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) cuts for military retirees they passed last month.

In August 2011, President Barack Obama spoke at the Legion’s national convention in Minneapolis. “I want to be absolutely clear: We cannot, we must not, and we will not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans," Obama told Legionnaires. "And as commander-in-chief, I won’t allow it.”

Yet that is precisely what Congress is doing by reducing COLA benefits for military retirees 1 percent per year for a decade, for projected savings of $6.3 billion.

As the Legion has repeatedly pointed out to members of Congress, of all the people receiving benefits from the federal government, military retirees under age 62 are the only ones losing direct income.

In the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act just passed by the House and on the verge of Senate passage, an amendment in the bill would restore COLA benefits to veterans who were medically discharged – about 96,000 of America’s 903,000 military retirees aged 62 or younger.

For more than 800,000 military retirees, the amendment inserted into the omnibus bill means nothing. While several members of Congress have touted their support for veterans by engineering this amendment, they remain mute on why so many other veterans must bear the burden of reduced benefits by themselves.

“The American Legion is extremely disheartened that Congress, once again, fails to honor those in our country who have dedicated many years to serving America in uniform,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said. "Even more unconscionable is the fact that Senate leaders are using medically discharged veterans to try and convince the American people that they really have not broken faith with our veterans. Congress needs to restore COLA benefits to all military retirees, not just some of them."

Since last month, Dellinger has made many public statements, sent letters to Congress, and issued two legislative action alerts to the Legion’s membership – all to make clear his organization’s staunch opposition to taking away benefits from military retirees.

In a Jan. 1 op-ed published in USA Today, Dellinger wrote, “As is too often the case, Congress fails to consider the long-term effects of legislation it passes. Veterans who will lose retirement income can’t be blamed when they discourage their children and grandchildren from military careers. Men and women who now serve America in uniform may begin to wonder which of their benefits Congress will take its chisel to next.”

On Jan. 15, Louis Celli, the Legion’s Legislative director, met with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Finding a way to repeal COLA cuts for all military retirees was the topic of discussion.

At its August 2012 national convention in Indianapolis, The American Legion passed a resolution that opposed any changes to the current military retirement system that would reduce incentives for enlistment or re-enlistment.

“Any changes to the existing military retirement system may violate contracts made with military retirees and currently serving military personnel, and would undermine morale and readiness,” the resolution stated.

The American Legion, which has received many emails from retired veterans distressed by their future loss of benefits, is urging veterans to voice their concerns about the COLA cuts to the district offices of their congressional representatives.

To get contact information for congressional district offices, go to the Senate and House of Representatives websites.

More in Legislative Center

 

Raymond R. Saldana, USAF Retired

January 27, 2014 - 4:15pm

urely there is another way for you to save money than off the backs of those who so selflessly served their country. How about TAXING THOSE who refuse to serve our country when they reach the maximum age limit to join the armed forces. This method of raising money would put more money into the government coffers than reducing the COLA's of our veterans who served with distinction. In this way the individuals whom refuse to serve would in effect be paying for their freedom in a way. After all freedom is not free as you know. The freedoms we have today were paid for by our active duty military of today the veterans of the past, and whom many are not here to enjoy. Leave our veterans alone, all we want is what was promised to us. NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS. One last item, all the so called patriots that whet north to Canada during the Viet Nam War, these slugs enjoy the sames freedoms as we do. They should be taxed double.

terry staub

January 20, 2014 - 10:26am

I can understand how in this declining economy and sense of American values and human worth, the aspect that a healthy young man who as earned one pension can then take a job that in 1990 dollars could earn the difference in "pay" loss in two years. the critical hurt this bill puts on veterans is that this is not the 90's and where are you going to immediately find jobs on separation from service that make up the difference for retirees ages 40-50? But more egregious is the fact they attached a sentence that included disabled vets, I ope I am wrong but one newscaster stated that after the Bill went forward some anonymous bureaucrat attached a measure that would impact disabled Vets. American service people especially the enlisted ranks volunteer this Christmas past increased number of Service families had to apply for Welfare assistance. Since the beginning of the all-Volunteer force the existence of the human needs of its selfless service people has been taken for granted and even our current President has offered words to the effect that sacrifice should expected of service people, when Bills like this are passed with the snide attachment by representatives that they know it is a bad Bill but they can fix it "later" it indicates a callousness and almost insidious taking for granted of our service people and especially our enlisted ranks that have come to be frowned on by political elements in this nation as little better than welfare recipients in uniform. It isn't simply the pay that is an issue.

Chuck the Veteran too

January 22, 2014 - 10:51am

I think that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military get together and look at all the billions that is in their budget. They look at the part that supposed to be earmarked for veterans benefits. They realize just how much "toys" and "training" and "war games" and actual war they could use that money on. Then the Military Academy brain washing kicks in. And so goes the plan to "shoot wounded and old useless (to them) horses". Since they have no need for us, they do not care about our needs. And especially about the traditional benefits like retirement pay and benefits. I this thinking stems from the fact that officers make more money, and always will, than enlisted so they do mind losing a "little" bit of benefits here and there. Just saying. Oh yes, politicians should never had the benefit of a retirement check after serving only one term. Besides I think they should only be allowed to serve only one term - then go back to being regular citizens. After all, they volunteered to be elected. Heck they even paid millions to get the job. Go figure.

MSGT USAF (RET) BILL DOYLE

January 17, 2014 - 9:56pm

When the pigs (certain politicians)and other have their noses in the trough, they forget who is guarding and guarded the fences.

Tsgt USAF (RET) George Willis

January 19, 2014 - 11:18am

I second that thought! The issues I have with all of this is when we enlisted, we were promised that if we upheld our end of the contract that we would be awarded, with our retirement with certain benefits guaranteed. While during my tenure, I seen many, many airman/soldiers punished for not upholding their end of this contract. Some were punished and remained in the military and some went to jail. How the folks that made this contact are basically saying "Oh well" just kidding. The folks making these laws do not have integrity to honor what they have promised. Not only do they now want to honor it, but they refuse to use the same services that they have said are good enough for the ones that "Stand Guard at Night. For everyone that is serving or has served "I SALUTE YOU".

Steve Graham

January 17, 2014 - 4:37pm

Veterans Day 2013, President Obama, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery said the following and I quote: " Here in America, we take care of our own. We honor the sacrifice that has been made in our name, for this nation that we love. And we commit ourselves to standing by these veterans and their families, for as long as we’re blessed to walk this Earth." This Veterans Day, the American Legion and 30 other major veteran groups in the military coalition should ban all politicians from their events and tell the press why. It's time to send a strong message.

Bud Bedrosian

January 17, 2014 - 12:23pm

THIS IS YOUR CHICKEN HAWKS, FLAG WAVERS WHO LOVE TO SEND OUR CHILDREN TO WAR AND WHEN THEY RETURN ALL CRIPPLED UP OUR CHICKEN HAWKS IN CONGRESS PISS ON THEM

Terry Marks

January 17, 2014 - 1:40pm

I agree. Always hearing talk about take from the military or Veterans, how about take from the people that work up in the WH, how about cutting the $113 Billion on Illegals, how about cutting WH Perks and Pensions, how about stop sending foreign aid to country's that hate us, how about all those vacations you and family take about every 3 months, how about the huge bill funds every agency of government, pairing increases for NASA and Army Corps of Engineers construction projects with cuts to the Internal Revenue Service tax agency and foreign aid. It pays for implementation of Obama's health care law, oh and get this one American taxpayers are “grossly” overpaying for penis pumps for Medicare beneficiaries to the tune of millions of dollars each year, penis pumps hell give them Viagra!! According to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a watchdog group, Obama's administration has spent a minimum of $4.5 billion on Obamacare, much of it for useless overhead and pointless assistance. Obama has and is still spending and spending and spending without any control.

ijustone

January 17, 2014 - 12:19pm

These are our representatives that started this. Paul Ryan and the whole house of representatives. Paul Ryan helped craft the Bill with Patty Murray. All the Democrats in the Senate plus these nine Republican senators voted for this: John Mccain (AZ), Rob Portman (OH), Susan Collins (ME), John Hoeven (ND), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Orrin Hatch (UT), Ron Johnson (WI) and from Georgia we received the double Whammy from Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss.

Robert Augeri

January 17, 2014 - 12:03pm

The Legion should come out with a list of all the traitors who voted for a bill like this. So anyone who served could let their family members know and friends to vote these idiots out of office.

Retired MSgt Elliott

January 17, 2014 - 9:56am

Good for the Legion for fighting for us. Now you need to remind all veterans in November to vote out all of Harry Reid's friends, so that we can actually get a measure restoring our benefits through the Senate, not just through the House.

Ret. Msgt Worden, USAF

January 17, 2014 - 2:26am

I to am a Vietnam Vet and proud of it. I remember the discrace I encountered when I returned, not once but 3 x's from hell and damnation. Obama, get the hell out of office! You do nothing but destroy the USA and it's true supporters. Congress quit picking on those who can't voice their concerns without proffesional help. You all work for us, the people of the United States. Listen to what's said. My fellow vets. how 'bout we take up a class action law suit against these anachartists for all the broken contracts and breaches of promises that we have to endure. Is their any veteran legal begals out there that can take up our banner of grief and fight for what is ours by contractual agreement?

Kingpin

January 17, 2014 - 8:16am

Leave the Commander alone!! Jump those in congress who sponsored that bill and vote them out of OFFICE.

SFC (R) Marrero

January 16, 2014 - 10:17pm

We have so much waste of Federal Money that should be monitor better but insted they go for the easy group,the militay pesonnel. Please put the names of the people responsible for this and remember them next time you vote. I am always proud of my 21 years of service and 2 combat deployments but the actions of the goverment feels like a stab in the back. Now my Son is serving in the Army and is also very proud of his service to the nation.

Richard Cutler

January 16, 2014 - 7:45pm

How about getting the VA to reinstate medical care for ALL VETERANS regardless of income? It's not right that someone who saw active duty in Vietnam can't get any kind of VA care, because "we make too much money"! They never asked how much I made when they shipped me out, did they?

Tom Stone

January 17, 2014 - 1:13pm

Richard. If you were in VietNam you should be able to sign in to the VA and use it, I think.

H.S.

January 18, 2014 - 7:18pm

You might have to make copayments.

Scorekeeper

January 16, 2014 - 7:45pm

Disabled warriors scored a field goal this week, but we must continue press on until full restoration of cola for all retirees Military Industrial Congressional Complex 7 Military retirees 3

Fern

January 16, 2014 - 7:28pm

I feel like I have been stabbed in the back. Now I know how Vietnam Vets felt back in the 70's. I am at 20 years active duty, and I am starting to hate each day I go to work only because of those who work in DC.

Kenneth R. Ledbetter, USA Retired

January 17, 2014 - 11:41am

NO, you do not now know how Vietnam Vets felt back in the 70's because these elected representatives stabbed you in the back. With Viet-nam it was the people who rejected the Vietnam war and then turned their back on that war's young vets who fought-BIG DIFFERENCE!

Seriously...

February 4, 2014 - 10:42pm

Fern, you should remove your idiotic comment, it's insulting to me and I wasn't even there(or born)-- Do they call you a baby killer and spit on you at work too? Did you get sent to a war ill-equipped and have to kill or be killed and come back to be prosecuted for war crimes? Don't make me go on, just get a clue and know that from now on, you DO NOT compare Vietnam to anything that you have or will experience in your lifetime,--because you will not. EVER.

MSgt LDearborn

January 16, 2014 - 6:50pm

We didn't agree to it but retirees are giving back. It's called your retirement pension that we earned by surviving serving our country. If we are not over 50% service connected we give back the equivilent of what our disability warrents. Congress passed a law that said you cant get two federal benefits at once. But not is not applied to all fed benefits just us military retirees under 50%. Remember this was Obama's very first broken promise, unstead of getting CRDP at all levels he gave it to chapter 60 medicaly retired. Not taking any thing from those brothers and sisters just tired of always being the group to give.

Ray Willis

January 16, 2014 - 6:22pm

Jim Laubler. FYI. I'm not sure that you would qualify, but, a couple years ago a law was passed restoring at least some concurrent pay for disable vets, as low as 10% disabled. I suggest you go to the nearest American Legion and talk to one of their reps their that assist Vets. Thx for your service!

Ray Willis

January 16, 2014 - 6:16pm

Retirees were told they would be given a pension, medical,& other benefits. I was Marine infantry in Vietnam & spent 20 years on the govts promise. In the early '70s military pay was frozen for 2 years while civilians went on strike because they were only offered 14% pay raises. We were given a promise to get us to go to war, live in mud, go hungry, freeze and fry, not see our families for a year, and even out of combat infantry goes to the field and lives in mud for days or a week or more, 24 hour days with no extra pay. These liars in Congress are no different than when they spoke with a forked tongue in the 1800s. I'm not giving up anything unless everyone else is. I have already done more than 95% of the population, I was promised a retirement, and not one which would be whittled away to where I am now getting almost 50% less in buying power. We already sacrificed more than most ever will. I am tired of sacrificing for an ungrateful bunch of morons. And if there was still a draft going on, we would have had demonstrations again & more cowards lying about their reasons for joining the demonstrations. Period.

Jim Worden

January 17, 2014 - 2:40am

Ray, I didn't eat dirt but I feel the same as you. Serving 20 yrs, three marriages/divorces and all that goes with them, three tours in the jungle and family separation, not to mention remote assignments without family are more than the average non-combatant has to endure in 2 lifetimes. Isn't it about time we took our compaints to those who cause them, capital hill and all occupants. Served with confidence in our gov'nt and was a proud supporter of the presidency. But, since Vote for Change Obama got in office, without stating what he would change, or without a legal birth certificate, my faith in the office he disgraces is deminished. It's time of all vets to band together and show our gov'nt we will not take there s===t anymore.

Price E. Brower

January 16, 2014 - 6:07pm

It's a shame that this country doesn't do more the Veterans, that fought for freedom. Freedom is not free. There are more Native Veteran in Alaska,then any other place. So we should HONOR OUR VETERANS.

Marine 1970

January 16, 2014 - 5:59pm

Our executive, legislative and judicial government has never heard the whistle and snick of rounds overhead. I have a son who has served in 8 deployments over the past 16+ years. How can the government cut benefits to a group that is risking their lives for us? I'm sure Senator Udall considers his ride into Washington just as dangerous. I suggest we have a new box on the federal tax form where people can contribute more money to our screwed up, sissy government

Ted Nedderman

January 16, 2014 - 5:13pm

I think that reducing the COLA for veterans is reasonable as long as congress also changes the COLA for social security beneficiaries and change from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans for all federal employees and ALL elected officials, except for military personal(Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard). They should keep the defined benefit plans with the reduced COLA. This would be fair and balanced sacrifice to constrain spending. It will never happen but should!!

Kent Stoneman

January 16, 2014 - 5:31pm

I couldn't agree more. Singling out one group for a reduced COLA is what hurts. If every person drowing a federal payment were subject to the exact same provisions, I would not object, but singling out a particular group is truly unfair and objectionable.

PRManes

January 16, 2014 - 5:08pm

On next election(s) for Senators and Representatives consider not voting for the incumbents. It looks like we need to "clean house"!

Loose Cannon

January 18, 2014 - 8:06am

That's EXACTLY what I advocate and intend on doing!

Don

January 16, 2014 - 4:54pm

How about Volunteering to give back some disability pay. I volunteered in 1968 and ended up in Vietnam, luckly enough to make it home but also proud I served my country. I will help in anyway possible as long as others stand by me and do the same.

unoband

January 19, 2014 - 8:48am

I served in 68 and 69. Proud to stand with you. Thanks for your service.

Don too

January 16, 2014 - 6:45pm

I wouldn't mind sacrificing if the guvmt wouldn't turn around and increase the number of people eligible for federal benefits who aren't even legal citizens

SCPO_Retired

January 16, 2014 - 4:45pm

On one hand, I don't mind taking the COLA reduction. I realize that I stand to lose a few thousand dollars over the long haul, but if I can do something to help our country's financial problems, I don't mind. One the other hand, however, it's always us military retirees that pay. Disabled veterans don't. Seniors on Social Security don't. Civil Service and FERS retirees don't. Just us. Why is that? It's because we know the meaning of sacrifice. They should do the CPI - 1% for all those under 62. Not just us military retirees.

SCPO-Retired-disabled

January 16, 2014 - 5:13pm

hard to believe you went through an initiation and would speak without thinking that your words are not in "the Mess" and you might offend some of the veterans who gave a little more. you know what they say about opinions their "Senior Cheif"

Devil Dog

January 16, 2014 - 4:47pm

amen brother! all or none

Bert Yim

January 16, 2014 - 4:31pm

We need a bill to limit the years of service for our Congress. Unfortunately, this will never happen since THEY must approve such a bill. We (Veteransare) are literally being screwed year after year as more NON-military congressional representatives are elected….God Bless America and our Veterans

Paul Myers

January 16, 2014 - 4:24pm

“I want to be absolutely clear: We cannot, we must not, and we will not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans," Obama told Legionnaires. "And as commander-in-chief, I won’t allow it.” Everyone raise your hand if you are surprised that Obama lied.

peter j schelker

January 16, 2014 - 3:57pm

the president and congress work for the people not the other way around. Why this bloated government works at all is astonishing.

Anonymous

January 16, 2014 - 3:54pm

The t

DJM

January 16, 2014 - 3:45pm

Permalink, you are a disgrace to all veterans, retirees and those currently serving in uniform! I doubt that you served.

Judy Dokmanovich

January 16, 2014 - 3:43pm

I agree that Congress should cut their OWN benefits,than cutting the benefits of those who have sacrificed for this country. It is shameful. If anything they should be given raises and more benefits. These soldiers have lived without their families and have suffered sometimes mentally as well as physically.

Vergne Caldwell

January 16, 2014 - 3:34pm

All benefits should be cut for military retirees except social security just like everyone else. Unless you are a wounded veteran from actual combat the myriad of benefits should be cut out. They have already lived off the American people for twenty plus years. Enough is enough. I am a veteran who was in two different branches of the military.

SSG Chuck Menz USA (Ret)

January 16, 2014 - 6:10pm

I find it hard to believe that a veteran who has served in two branches of service feels that those of us who have served twenty years or more in any branch of the military feels our benefits should be cut. We are not asking for a handout but that the government we represented while in uniform keep the promise they made to us for our service and that those who have been wounded in combat be taken care of, no more no less. Here in California, according to one of our esteemed Congresswomen, reinstating full Cola, would cause some of the two hundred thousand illegals who live her to lose the three hundred a week they get to take care of their families. That is more than many on one hundred percent VA disability receive, so who is living of the American people. Mr. Caldwell you need to re evaluate your mind set and then if you still feel as you say you do give what ever pay you receive from your service to wounded Warriors, or the Defense Fund, that provides track wheel chairs for those who have lost limbs they seem to help those in need and their families far more than our government does.

Victor James/SniperSarge

January 16, 2014 - 7:47pm

It's hard to understand that members of Congress are able to make more money then the President. But Federal law states how much he can make, not so with members of Congress. Also most taxpayers and veterans( we pay taxes too) have to work at least 20 years to receive a pension, again not members of Congress. I read somewhere on the internet that most members of Congress are millionares. They voted to receive pay increases every year, but veterans have to beg to get one. Years ago I remember how the people of California went to the polls to stop the state from raising their taxes. The American people need to unite together and demand that Congress serve the people, and not themselves.

SOF

January 16, 2014 - 5:13pm

IF all benefits are cut equally, then fine. IF the government is more conscientious with their spending, as we must be in our household budgets, then fine. Whatever your service was, to say veterans with 20+ years of service (often their most productive years in life) "live off the American people", then I question your perspective on service. Your comment was unkind, inaccurate and unworthy of anyone who has worn a uniform in any functional capacity. My family have served since the American Revolution, and risked destruction of the family at least twice because of that service, and I rather doubt any of them felt at all parasitic.

Retired Tech Petersen

January 16, 2014 - 4:34pm

Assuming you actually served in the US military, either your bitter for not being able to retire with benefits after being in two branches of the military or I'm guessing you've lost something that you didn't earn in the first place. Myself and most fellow Veterans paid our taxes (including social security) entire time we served. I've also worked in private business past 16 years, again, paying my fair share of taxes as well, to include taxes on my military pension. I'll not complain about the tax I pay to help maintain our nation defense and I expect our government to honor it's commitment to our Veterans. Then and now! Also,as far as I know, there was no guarantee that we'd not be put in harms way, or be saved from injury, but it was nice of you to spare the wounded at least.

Retired Chief Torres

January 16, 2014 - 3:59pm

You must be smoking some serious dope, you must of served in the cub scouts and boy scouts that don't count guy.

Retired Chief Torres

January 16, 2014 - 3:59pm

You must be smoking some serious dope, you must of served in the cub scouts and boy scouts that don't count guy.

Don Andrews

January 16, 2014 - 3:47pm

I suppose you support obamaphones, food stamp abuse and other such wasteful federal programs. Like it or not pal, veterans did more to earn those benefits than anyone. Shame on you.

Lois J. Small

January 16, 2014 - 3:43pm

Did you really mean that? Of all the things one can do for one's country, active military service is the most honorable and notable. My goodness and here I've been advocating a universal draft so that every citizen can understand that "freedom is not free".

MSG CLARK

January 16, 2014 - 3:41pm

You are an idiot.

Gordon Barry

January 16, 2014 - 3:34pm

I think that Congress, should cut their own benefits, which would gain the country much more money, than cutting the benefits of those who have risked everything for their country. I believe that since we the people of the United States are the ones who empower these people (congress, the president), we should be the ones dictating what their pay and benefits are.

Kenneth Gratz

January 16, 2014 - 3:52pm

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a Constitutional method for WE The PEOPLE to set pay and benefits for Congress. Sadly as things are at present we will never see that day. Congress will never allow a bill or amendment to even come to the floor for discussion.

Loose Cannon

January 18, 2014 - 8:11am

Suggestion: Reduce term limits for ALL elected officials to no more than 6 years max!!

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