In late December, a two-year budget deal passed the Senate by a bipartisan 64-36 vote. It includes a provision that cuts a full 1 percent from future annual cost-of-living-adjustments to the retirement packages of all veterans under the age of 62.
This COLA reduction in the budget deal applies to active duty service members who have yet to retire and to those who have been disability retired from the military as a result of their wounds defending our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that this provision was included speaks volumes to veterans who put their lives on the line and sacrificed for America.
Veteran service organizations have calculated that a gunnery sergeant or sergeant first class (E-7) retiring today with 20 years of service would lose more than $80,000 in income by age 62. Officers could lose as much as $140,000.
This cut was only directed at the military and not the rest of the Federal civilian workforce, except for new hires effective Jan. 1, 2014.
One would not mind taking a financial hit as long as it is evenly applied to all in the interests of deficit reduction. However, to be a part of a group specifically singled out by Congress while other entitlements are untouched smacks of grave injustice. The all-voluntary military now only represents roughly 1 percent of the nation and thus is an easy target to be discounted by Congress and the general public as a whole.
The VSOs, including the Association of the United States Navy, are working with members in both the House and Senate to find a bipartisan solution that will replace this unacceptable provision prior to the president signing the bill on Jan. 15.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel did come out recently in opposition to this provision of the budget deal, and agrees with those in Congress who want to exempt disabled retirees under the age of 62 from this scaling back in their retirement COLA’s. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., also recently stated that the Senate will vote to exempt retirees the week of Jan. 6, the chamber’s first week back after the holidays. Numerous proposals have been introduced or are being written in the meantime, in both the House and Senate, yet no bill has received a consensus for fixing this wrong.
George Washington once said: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
Washington was referring to the nation’s citizens on whose behalf her military veterans have served and sacrificed, as well as the government.
Ted Daywalt, a retired Navy captain, is president/CEO of VETJOBS and a member of the Association of the United States Navy. Bill Manofsky a retired Navy commander, is the national vice president of government relations for the Association of the United States Navy.
A previous version of this article misstated the nature of the cost-of-living-adjustment cuts. Congressional staff are not excluded.