A one-percentage-point cut in annual cost-of-living increases for working-age veterans continues to provoke indignation.
Personnel costs and benefits to active-duty as well as retired personnel account for about half the overall defense budget. The budget deal reached by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray reduces cost-of-living pension increases for younger retired service members.
Lt. Col. Stephen Preston served 25 years in the Army including combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now retired, he collects about $55,000 a year adjusted for annual cost of living increases, The Washington Post reports
, which goes into effect at the end of 2015 has left Preston, 51, angry. "This is a pact between the greater population of the United States and the fraction of people who served and sacrificed. If you didn't want to pay us what you promised us, then you probably shouldn't have promised it," he told The Post.
Supporters of the cut say that it is never easy to identify specific areas of the budget to trim.
Richard Kogan, of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Post "It's easy to be bold and brave in general, but it's very hard to be bold and brave in specific. You can talk about 'reforming entitlements.' But you can't talk about 'cutting Social Security,' because the public knows what that means."
Kogan added, "Now, we've got $6 billion taken from military pensions — an infinitesimally small provision — and it causes people heartburn because it's specific."
Taken as a whole, the Ryan-Murray deal identified $85 billion in savings in governmental spending, the Post reported.
In a USA Today op-ed
last week Ryan defended his approach, "If a serviceman enlisted at 18 and retired at 38, under this policy his lifetime benefit would be about $1.7 million instead of $1.8 million . . . And to be clear, the money we save from this reform will go right back to the military."
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina opposes the cuts. "It's horrible policy. If we're going to reform entitlements, let's do it in a fashion that's comprehensive.
"This is an effort to single out one group of people and put a penalty on their benefits that you're not putting on anybody else," Graham added. "And this would be the last group we'd want to penalize, not the first."
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