Senate on verge of approving COLA reductions

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Senate on verge of approving COLA reductions
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., expresses her opposition to proposed COLA cuts for military retirees at a Dec. 17 press conference in Washington. Standing behind her is American Legion Legislative Director Louis Celli.

The American Legion joined several members of Congress and other veterans service organizations on Dec. 17 to express its strenuous opposition to a measure that would cut benefits for military retirees by $6.3 billion.

The proposal, included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 passed last week by the House, would reduce cost-of-living retirement benefits for veterans by 1 percent per year until they reached the age of 62. American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) decrease would be disrespectful to America’s men and women "who have devoted their careers at great personal cost to the safety and welfare of our nation.

"The American Legion is pleased that Congress has reached an agreement that should prevent another government shutdown. However, we are deeply disappointed that military retirees were singled out to make up the shortfalls in the DoD budget. After fulfilling military careers, with the understanding that an annual cost-of-living adjustment would be tied to inflation, that pact has been reduced."

At the Dec. 17 press conference, three senators urged their colleagues to use alternative savings to replace the provision to reduce COLA for current and future military retirees: Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

The American Legion’s legislative staff in Washington has been working to persuade Congress to get the COLA provision excised from the budget bill. Louis Celli, the Legion’s legislative director, said that a letter signed by Dellinger was hand-delivered on Dec. 16 to every Senate office.

"Overwhelmingly, Senate staff members said they had no idea that the COLA provision was going to be included in the bill," Celli said, "and that their bosses hate the provision. This sentiment was unanimous across both sides of the aisle."

In his letter, Dellinger asked the senators to vote against the budget bill, "that imposes a tax on military retirees by reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustments for current active-duty servicemembers and military retirees under age 62." The bill "unfairly singles out and targets current military servicemembers and retirees at a far greater and direct out-of-pocket expense by as much as $120,000 in some cases and even more in others."

Dellinger cited the Legion’s resolution, "Support for Military Quality of Life Standards," passed at its national convention in August. The resolution opposes "any changes to the military retirement system, whether prospective or retroactive, that would violate contracts made with military retirees and that would undermine morale and readiness...."

"For The American Legion, this is not a fiscal matter," Dellinger wrote, "it is a direct attack on our military veterans and their families. After serving their country, many in harm’s way, these same servicemembers and military retirees, and their survivors and families, should not now be asked to balance the nation’s books by forfeiting their retired pay."

Ayotte revealed during the press conference that she has documented evidence that the COLA provision would not only affect retirees with 20-plus years of military service, but it would also affect America’s medically retired veterans.

Celli said that more than 900,000 of the country’s 1.9 million military retirees would be affected by the COLA provision. He said the Legion is concerned that, if the measure is passed now and repealed later, the veterans community still might suffer from other pay-go offsets that would replace the COLA cuts.

"Military retirees are the only group being asked to come out of pocket in attempt to balance America’s budget in this bill," Celli said. "Other requirements placed on federal employees that call for increased contributions to their federal retirement plans will ultimately grow interest and increase their benefits – not so with the reduction in COLA benefits. This is a military retiree tax levied on one of the smallest, and in the case of disabled retirees, most-injured veteran populations."

Last May, The American Legion passed a resolution at its Spring Meetings that opposed any lowering of COLA adjustments for military retirees and veterans.

In a letter to their Senate colleagues, Ayotte, Graham and Wicker wrote that, "As a matter of principle, we do not believe it is right to ask our veterans to sacrifice again for our country when we have not had the courage to address the primary long-term drivers of our debt."

The Senate voted to end debate on the budget bill by a 67-33 vote and is soon expected to take a final floor vote.

 

 

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Deborah Garcia

December 20, 2013 - 2:07pm

the minute a disaster arises, we Americans are the first ones to respond with millions and aid. That's fine to a degree. when there is a disaster in America, we receive no aid from abroad. Millions, millions send all over this world our TAX DOLLARS AT WORK, but were the last to take care of our own at home America!! I wonder who is doing all the kissing here.....

Garcia

December 20, 2013 - 2:01pm

It's SAD!!! We get praised in society for our sacrifice and service but get shafted by the boys in DC. I believe Americans really do understand what we veterans have done for this country and mean when they thank us for our service. If only the boys in DC felt the same way. By taking from us is not the answer...you have FREEDOM by our sacrifice why not take care of the ones that are left standing especially the retirees who are in their last leg.

SFC Bill US Army

December 20, 2013 - 11:43am

You know where this country's money is going to all the overseas What were put into a country that give our money to people that are no from this country. As well as illegal's. that are here in America. The Senators and Congressperson's lay back vote on large raises every year. Stay in there until they are up in age draw a sweet salary when the retire. Have all the medical taken care of. A lot of these people have no idea what the Military Service is. Woops we screwed up oh take the military and military retirees money. I think all Senators etc should spend at least 3 years on active duty at least one year in the depth of conflict to realize what our country military really do for their country. Why not take there raises and COLA to see what it is like. Also how do they get away with giving themselves raises every year.?

CWO JEROME HOBAN SR RETD

December 19, 2013 - 9:14pm

Thank you Senator Murray, Senator Ryan, Senator Cantwell and Congressman Heck for doing such a great job on screwing the veterans. You should do the same to all the Senators and Congressmen and women They deserve more than the veterans. We will remember you come election time.

Palmer

December 19, 2013 - 6:52pm

I am 100% disabled Vietnam vet, and a baby boomer . I seen this coming , i.e. lost income at our age and our country is not what it was when we were young. We all know why this is going on. Our nation that we fought for has become a abomination .

MCPO Saunders

December 19, 2013 - 6:18pm

This is a very real indication of exactly what the USG knows regarding the successful completion of total control of the masses. The TERRORISTS in Washington understand that the MAJORITY of America's SHEEPLE will not make a sound, lift a finger or raise a voice to assist those that spent their lives dedicated and SWORN to protect them. Time for a complete and very VIOLENT reaction. Fvk VOTES! That pile is already a farce. Our oaths we swore, HAVE NO DATE OF EXPIRATION! You want to stop DOMESTIC TERRORISM? Begin by purchasing weapons, all the ammunition you can find and START the SLAUGHTER! FVK! Damn it! I am sick of setting and relying upon others! Keep your eyes to the news, bodies are now going to DROP! HOOYAH! HOOYAH! HOOYAH! HO-FVKN-YAH!

Johnny Smith

December 19, 2013 - 5:41pm

Gutless, spineless, yellow coward ploitical leaders. Been there '68-'69

Terrell Ridenour

December 19, 2013 - 4:54pm

I am a retiree with a disability and served for 20 1/2 years with the USMC and the Air National Guard. I am a Legion Member and fly the American Flag every day. I agree with all my fellow service members that this is an example of Senate and Congressional disgrace to take from the retired servicemen who deserve the COLA. Watch this closely and remember the Names of these Senators and Congressman that voted for this cut in benefits. Our only fight to cancel this bill is to right these Congressman and do not vote for them in the next coming election. Remember this is American and the people rule not the Government.

John Lepore

December 19, 2013 - 3:14pm

I think all veterans should remember this when Paul Ryan wants to run for president. This also goes for any of our political hacks coming up for reelection. They don't hesitate to fund Egypt or other countries at our expense.

Dave Malone (Post Member)

December 19, 2013 - 4:02pm

Here! Here! You want to save real money? Start with foreign aid!!! A majority of working American's are oblivious to what tax payers dollars really go to, (other than those handsome wages that lawmakers and congress are racking in) but to the veteran as well as the men and women who have sacrificed (and are currently sacrificing) for this country, which have been there and are still there, have seen some of that wasteful dollars to foreign aid first hand. What are these lawmakers and congress willing to give up as far as their benefits and salary? They will still be living fat won't they? Their incomes won't be impacted so, why should they care!!! They will sleep like a baby at night! How many of them actually served (military) for their country? That alone should be a pre-requisite before even thinking of running for office! There are a lot of vets out here whom rely solely on VA benefits, what little they get as it is! That is a real kick between the legs if I ever saw one!!!! Where is the humanity to our Veterans? PATHETIC!!!!

Pasta

December 18, 2013 - 1:14pm

Thankfully the vote will be at night so we can go out for dinner before they screw us again.

WyomingAl

December 18, 2013 - 9:27am

Once again the Senate and House place the burden on the military for thier own failures. Meantime they won't abolish IRS tax credits afforded to ILLEGAL immigrants.

MSG Stephen Brothers, retired

December 18, 2013 - 9:23am

In the future, the VFW and the American Legion should not invite nor allow any member of congress that voted for this budget deal the privilege of speaking at any of their events!!! Any congressman or senator who voted yes to take money from disabled vets should have a curse on his or her house!!!!

Lawrence Floyd

December 18, 2013 - 9:06am

How can it be legal to cut retirement benefits for one group of federally retired individuals and not all federally retired including the past elected officials!!

George Hadley

December 18, 2013 - 12:29am

Shame on these bastards.

Michael Hinds

December 17, 2013 - 11:43pm

It never ceases to amaze me how our government loves to thank our veterans and give them great praise for all their sacrifices and then they do something like this. This seems more like a screw you notice. What has our government came to? It makes me quite sad and disappointed in our leaders. Time for a change don't you think!

Packard

December 17, 2013 - 11:08pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, It is time to get off your duffs and act. Email your congressman and your two US Senators. Do it today. And keep it simple. If they are going to cut disabled veteran retirement benefits, then demand that they also do it across the board for ALL Federal Retirees as well. No compromises.

Mary Bienusa

December 17, 2013 - 2:44pm

I am a retirees spouse and think that all of the Senators' and Congresspersons' have got to realize that this is an issue of whether or not they will be voted back into office. They need to start cutting welfare and programs that are "FREE" by the 1% until these programs are gone. Thanks to the Ryan-Murrey that proposed this change and to all of the Senators' that voted for it; wonder what you are "getting out" of this deal that you have screwed all the Veterans that rely on the "RETIREES pay just to get a little ahead after the pay of under minimum wage during their military careers."

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