The Obama administration should restore the cost-of-living benefits of specific military retirees that were cut by 1 percent in the federal budget deal because "the promises the government made were very specific," retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace told Newsmax TV on Friday.
"What you have for the last 12 years is 1 percent of the nation defending the other 99 percent," Pace told John Bachman on "America's Forum" in an exclusive interview on Newsmax TV. "That 1 percent who's been deployed one year, two years, three years — more who've been away from their kids and away from their families — when they joined, the promises that the government made were very specific.
"If we want to change the rules, fair enough," Pace continued. "But we ought to be changing the rules and telling people, 'OK, if you join tomorrow, then the rules for you are going to be different than the rules used to be.'
"Look at what the nation can afford. Look at what is proper and correct — but don't move the cheese on the people who have been serving the nation for the last 12 years in combat in war zones away from their families.
"Do it in a way, if you must do it, where you're saying to people prospectively: 'Here's what the new rules are. If you want to join up and serve the nation based on these rules, please do,'" Pace said. "That's a fair way to go forward."
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The bipartisan budget deal, signed just after Christmas by President Barack Obama, cuts cost-of-living benefits to military retirees younger than 62 by 1 percent across the board starting in two years. The cuts amount to $6 billion.
The provision restored cuts that would have been made to all retirees, which had outraged
veteran's groups and GOP legislators, who said that it was done without consulting them. The cuts also would have affected disabled veterans who rely on military retirement pay as their sole income source.
The reductions were part of the bipartisan budget deal reached in December by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, a Democrat.
In his Newsmax interview, Pace acknowledged that "the nation has finite resources," but said that the commitments made to its service personnel should be honored.
"Take a look at what the needs are, triage the problems, do something about the things you can do something about — and if there's resources needed, then put it on the table and let's have a national discussion," he said. "Veterans issues should be on the table and should be debated and allocated based on the total needs of the nation.
"If we do this in an open forum in a way that people don't feel like somebody did something to them in the middle of the night, folks will understand," he added. "But there were promises made. If the promises are going to change, let's be forthright about that.
"Tell folks what the new rules are and then ask them to volunteer based on the new rules."
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