Leave Veteran Pensions Alone

Congress should look elsewhere for ways to cut federal deficits.

(USA TODAY 01 JAN 14) … Daniel M. Dellinger

Cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) cuts passed by Congress in its budget bill are nothing more than a tax on our country’s military retirees. They have already earned retirement benefits through their military service, yet Congress has taken some of those benefits away, just as it taxes the income of America’s wage earners.

On behalf of the nearly 2 million military retirees affected by these cuts, including medical retirees who are unable to work because of their physical or mental wounds, the American Legion implores Congress to repeal the COLA cuts provision of the budget bill. Military retirees and their families depend on those benefits, and they do not deserve to be singled out for penalization.

Why would Congress approve such an ill-conceived proposal in the first place? The COLA cuts will produce $6.3 billion in savings over 10 years. 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.

Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan should have known better than to include such an unfair proposal in the budget bill – especially Murray, who formerly chaired the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. They must have known the COLA cuts were a bad deal, because they didn’t run the scheme past the Senate Armed Services Committee (or any other Senate committee) for review. Senators on both sides of the aisle were surprised to discover the COLA cuts were part of the final budget deal. So was the American Legion, which has been promised over and over that the budget would not be balanced on the backs of veterans.

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. Those considering military careers may think twice; those considering re-enlistment may choose to leave.

The American Legion condemns these unjustified COLA cuts; they need to be restored immediately. Congress should look elsewhere for ways to solve our nation’s fiscal crisis.

Daniel M. Dellinger is national commander of the American Legion.

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