Legion takes COLA war to senators

The American Legion will take to Capitol Hill its adamant opposition to cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) cuts for military retirees. The Legion is submitting written testimony to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, headed by Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Ranking Member James Inhofe, R- Okla., The Legion’s views will be entered into the record of a hearing set for Tuesday titled “Recent Changes to the U.S. Military Retirement System.”

The National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in December capped COLA increases for all military retirees under the age of 62 at 1 percent below the annual rate of inflation. The measure would be effective beginning in January 2016 and could cost retirees tens of thousands of dollars. Opposition to the plan from The American Legion led to an amendment to the recently signed $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that exempted medically retired pension recipients and surviving spouses from the cut in benefits. For over 80 percent of U.S. military retirees and pension recipients, the amendment would have no effect. The American Legion’s position is that military retiree benefits should not be cut at all.

Committee members are scheduled to hear in person from six witnesses Tuesday, including Christine Fox, Acting Deputy Defense Secretary, and Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  They are expected to express views favoring the remaining pension cuts as protective of military readiness and weapons development funding.

The other four hearing witnesses, three from military service and support organizations in concert with The American Legion, are expected to appeal for complete removal of the COLA cuts for military retirees.

Legionnaires are encouraged to attend the hearing at 9:30 a.m., EST, Tuesday, Jan, 28, in Room SD-G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.