Why was it so important to get the COLA cuts to military pensions repealed?
Veterans service organizations have been around for over 100 years. You could almost say that we were the first organized unions, looking out for the bargaining rights of veterans who have dedicated at least some portion of their lives toward protecting the interests and values of our country.
Our veterans have recognized since the time of the American Revolution that military members and veterans who have served our nation do so as contracted employees of our federal government. In that contract, our government makes promises to servicemembers in return for their commitment to defend America.
This is why getting Congress to repeal cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) cuts to military pensioners was so important. Uncle Sam had promised those benefits to every man and woman serving in the military. Suddenly, Capitol Hill decided it was "okay" to reduce COLA benefits by one percent per year for a decade.
The American Legion loudly protested against the COLA cuts and immediately went to work in the halls of Congress to dismantle this legislative train wreck and return those benefits to the ones who earned them.
When President Obama signed the COLA repeal on Feb. 15, he acknowledged the promise made to every retired veteran and removed the threat of financial hardship for hundreds of thousands of military retirees (for example, a retired sergeant first class stood to lose about $72,000 in pension payments).
Individuals join the U.S. military with the understanding that they are entering into a profession of arms, under contract and with all that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice commands. That contract — that sacred vow between the servicemember and the nation he or she defends — is a commitment to a life of service unlike any other.
That same contract is also an agreement between the servicemember and the government that the supporting United States Federal Code of Regulations (U.S.C.) in place at the time of enlistment or commissioning, provides the legal foundation upon which the contract is written, agreed upon and signed.
Our members expect The American Legion's national leadership to represent their best interests when dealing with legislative issues. While we have always done so with an eye toward fiscal responsibility, we also make sure that lawmakers recognize their responsibility to honor their commitment: To support and defend the veterans of this nation and their families — too many of whom have paid a price far greater than any Congress will ever be able to repay.
Louis J. Celli, Jr.
Director, Legislative Division