Veterans Advocate: Budget Bill a 'Total Betrayal'

Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 09:50 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The House's $1.1 trillion spending bill, passed Wednesday, cuts most veterans' retirement benefits and is a "total betrayal" of those who served in the military, says the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

"It's a promise that's been made with our military folks when they raised their right hand and they sign up," the organization's founder, Paul Rieckhoff, told Fox News' Megyn Kelly on her show Wednesday night, calling the budget plan a "whole new level of bipartisan stupidity."

Editor's Note: Govt Prohibited From Helping Seniors (Shocking)

Story continues below video.



The spending bill does remove a previous cut to cost-of-living increases included in a compromise budget plan announced in December by co-chairs Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, for disabled military veterans and survivors, reports Stars and Stripes.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said the move will "right a wrong in this bill and keep faith with our veterans."

The initial cuts outraged veterans' groups, who said the legislation was done without consulting them and included disabled veterans who rely on military retirement pay as their sole income source.

The newly passed House budget plan, though, still includes cuts for military retirees younger than 62, reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments by 1 percent starting in 2016.

Veterans groups wanted a full repeal of the cuts that had been made, and Rieckhoff says lawmakers are breaking a promise to people who have volunteered to serve their country.

"Find the money somewhere else," Rieckhoff told Kelly. "You mean to tell me in the entire Defense budget they can't find somewhere else to make outside of the retirement benefits of folks who have served sometimes eight, nine tours? Our members are outraged across the country."

Bob Norton, spokesman for the Military Officers Association of America, said that restoring cuts to disabled retirees is a "useful first step" that may make it difficult to restore the cuts for everyone.

"This is not enough," Norton told Stars and Stripes. "We still believe everyone's retirement should be restored. And if we can't get [lawmakers] to act quickly, this could begin to slide off the radar."

If the new budget bill is approved, it will set government agencies' spending through September, preventing another government shutdown before this fall's elections.

Overall, the bill includes $572 in Defense spending for fiscal year 2014, which includes around $85 billion for operations overseas, including in Afghanistan. The figure is about four percent less than what the Obama administration requested last spring, reports Stars and Stripes.

Norton said that he and other veterans' advocates will continue pushing to change the cuts.

"The more days this retirement cut is out there, the more it starts to eat away at the confidence of our career force," said Norton. "We need to move on this now."

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, an Air Force veteran, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" that the cuts are "unconscionable" and a "low point." for Congress, "particularly Republicans, to have done this to our retired community. Somebody felt it was a good idea to take $6 billion away from our military retirees by doing the following: taking their cost of living allowance and reducing it by 1 percent retroactively."

The cuts, if the budget passes a Senate vote, will cost military retirees tens of thousands of dollars, said Graham.

"If you're an E-7, a master sergeant retiring at 42, by the time you get to 62, you lose almost $80,000 in retirement benefits," Graham said. "If you're a lieutenant colonel retiring in 2016 at 42 or 44, you lose over $100,000."

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe told The Washington Free Beacon that he is pleased disabled veterans will no longer face pension cuts, and he will continue working toward restoring pensions for all military retirees.

"The fact that we even have to take efforts to restore these retirement benefits in the first place is troubling," Inhofe said. "This is a benefit these men and women were promised when they joined the services and earned by dedicating their lives to protect our national security."

According to the Congressional Research Service, disabled veterans account for only 4.2 percent of the 2.2 million military retirees nationally. In fiscal year 2010, the report says, their pensions cost the government $50.12 billion.

Editor's Note: Govt Prohibited From Helping Seniors (Shocking)

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