Chronology of a COLA War

Aug. 30, 2011
“As a nation, we’re facing some tough choices as we put our fiscal house in order. But I want to be absolutely clear: We cannot, we must not, we will not, balance the budget on the backs of our veterans. As Commander-in-Chief, I won’t allow it.”
President Barack Obama, speaking at the 93rd National Convention of The American Legion in Minneapolis

Nov. 21, 2011
“They were given an important job to do, and they failed. What this means to the future of our military and our veterans remains to be seen, but the challenges have now intensified for those who believe in a strong national defense and want to protect the hard-earned benefits of veterans. We are profoundly disappointed in the work of this committee.”
American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong after the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka “The Supercommittee,” failed to find a solution to a federal budget deficit, triggering automatic cuts sequestration in 2013

Sept. 20, 2012
“We try to protect families wherever we can, but we have to make some of these cuts."
DoD Comptroller Robert Hale in a Sept. 20, 2012, hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, with participation by The American Legion

Oct. 16, 2012
“While there is plenty of blame to go around as to who caused the current deficit crisis, it is certain that it is not the soldier or the veteran that created this mess.”
American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz in a nationally distributed editorial about cuts of sequestration set to hit in January 2013

May 8-9, 2013
The American Legion passes Resolution No. 25, opposing any lowering of cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees, at the spring meeting of the National Executive Committee in Indianapolis.

Sept. 2, 2013
“The American Legion recognizes and supports the need for a fiscally responsible government and looks forward to working with Congress to develop deficit-reduction strategies that do not degrade the nation’s ability to defend itself, or further assault the earned benefits currently being received by our nation’s veterans.”
Item No. 1 on The American Legion Legislative Priorities report, delivered to the 113th Congress

Sept. 10, 2013
“The message we want you to carry to the Armed Services committees and to DoD couldn’t be more clear – military retirees are veterans, too, so leave retiree benefits and TRICARE alone.”
American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger, testifying at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs

Oct. 1-16, 2013
Failure to enact legislation to fund the federal government leads to a shutdown that furloughs approximately 800,000 employees, threatens benefits for veterans and military retirees, and closes down national parks. One site under administration of the National Park Service, the National World War II Memorial in Washington, is closed to veterans who simply remove the barriers and go to the site anyway.

Oct. 4, 2013
"It is inexcusable that this failure to govern has disproportionately impacted U.S. military veterans and their families. I implore Congress to fund the government and end this shutdown now. It is an embarrassment to our nation; it is a cruelty to veterans and their families."
American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger, in a press conference at the National World War II Memorial, as veteran benefits were threatened by the budget impasse that shut down the U.S. government for more than two weeks

Oct. 17, 2013
President Obama signs a bill that temporarily ends the government shutdown and raises the U.S. debt ceiling.

Oct. 18, 2013
The American Legion hosts a Military and Veterans Benefits Summit in Washington, inviting several other veterans organizations, to establish a unified front in the battle to protect the benefits of those who have served our nation in uniform.

Dec. 12, 2013
"While The American Legion applauds the proposed National Defense Authorization Act’s prohibition against new TRICARE user fees and its limitations on raising existing fees, we strongly oppose any decrease in the annual cost of living allowance for veterans, retirees – who are also veterans – or their dependents and families. The men and women who have served our country honorably and well deserve to be treated in like fashion once they have hung up their uniforms. Few sacrifice as much as servicemembers, most especially those who have devoted their careers at great personal cost to the safety and welfare of our nation."
American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger, after 1-percent reductions in annual cost-of-living increases for military retirees were included in a bipartisan agreement to advance a budget bill was crafted by Sens. Patty Murray and Paul Ryan

Dec. 16, 2013
"For The American Legion, this is not a fiscal matter. 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."
American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger, in a letter hand-delivered to every U.S. senator, demanding that reduced cost-of-living benefits for military retirees be removed from the federal budget bill

Jan. 1, 2014
“Does Capitol Hill lack the resolve to find those savings elsewhere? Out of all Americans receiving benefits from the federal government, military retirees were the only ones targeted for a direct reduction in payments.”
American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger in an editorial published in USA Today.

Jan. 9, 2014
The American Legion issues a nationwide appeal to its 2.4 million members to contact their congressional delegations to demand removal of all COLA reductions for military retirees from the budget bill.

Jan. 15, 2014
The House passes a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that removes COLA reductions only for medically disabled military retirees, about 96,000 of America’s 903,000 military retirees who would be affected.

Jan. 16, 2014
“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."
American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger in a statement before a Senate vote on the omnibus spending bill

Jan. 17, 2014

“The American Legion supports repeal of the COLA provision... and applauds your leadership in addressing this critical issue facing our nation’s service members and veterans.”

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger in letter of support for “Responsible Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014" (S. 1931) written by  Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

 Jan. 24, 2014

Legion issues Action Alert to members asking them to contact their U.S. senators and congressmen and voice strong opposition to the COLA reduction.

 Jan. 27, 2014

Legion voices its adamant opposition to COLA cuts for military retirees in written testimony at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

 Jan. 27, 2014

Legion amplifies its anti-COLA reduction views at a post-hearing press conference conducted by Sens. Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.), Kelly Ayotte, (R-N.H.), and Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Jan. 30, 2014

Legion meets with Senate leadership and Senate Budget Committee staff to further express its position on COLA cuts.

Feb. 4, 2014

Legion speaks at a press conference called by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to tout his omnibus bill strengthening veterans' health care and benefits. Legion takes opportunity to reiterate its opposition to COLA cuts.

Feb. 4, 2014

Legion staff meets with Master Chief Petty Officer of  the Navy Mike D. Stevens to discuss joint efforts to repeal COLA cuts.

Feb. 6, 2014

Legion staff discusses possible legal strategies against COLA reductions with veteran legal scholar.

Feb. 10, 2014

Legion expresses support for bill introduced by  Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to repeal COLA cuts. Senate subsequently votes 94 – 0 to move legislation toward full Senate consideration.

Feb. 11, 2014

"What the House did is commendable on one hand and rectifies an unfortunate earlier move to restore full COLAs only to veterans with disabilities. However, this action still falls short of reversing the COLA cut for all eligible military retirees, current and future. Again, as in targeting the Department of Defense for sequestration, this legislation places the responsibility for correcting our nation’s fiscal crisis almost solely on our servicemembers.”

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger after House of Representatives passed S25, a bill that restored full COLA to current retirees and future military pensioners - but only those who joined the service on or prior to Jan. 1, 2014.

Feb. 12, 2014

"I cannot say that I am completely satisfied with the decisions by both the House and Senate to maintain a cut to future retirees’ pensions…but we can at least breathe a sigh of relief on behalf of our current retirees and career servicemembers. The American Legion will continue to fight for a full reversal of COLA cuts for military retirees today and those yet to serve. It is the right thing to do."

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger after Senate passed bill identical to House version that restores full COLA to current retirees and servicemembers.

Feb. 15, 2014

President Barack Obama, while on a golf outing at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., signs S25 into law, thus restoring full COLA benefits for younger military retirees. The bill was flown to the president from Washington the night before.