The modest budget deal struck by Republicans and Democrats was generally welcome news, but one provision clearly needs to go. About $6 billion of spending reductions in the bill comes from changing the cost-of-living calculation used for military pensions, which some estimates say could reduce the lifetime benefit of retired service members by up to $80,000
The provision would cut the cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees pay by 1 percentage point a year until they turn 62, when their pay would be recalculated. It would apply to those who retire after 20 years of active service, are not disabled and generally are still in their 40s, according to the Washington Post.
The House Budget Committee justifies the reduction by calling military retirement "an exceptionally generous benefit, often providing 40 years of pension payment in return for 20 years of service."
Generous or not, the pension benefit is one that has been earned by those who served their country for 20 years, often at great risk to themselves and great inconvenience to their families. Reducing their pensions is an unpardonable breech of faith.
A majority of House Republicans and Democrats voted to approve the budget bill last week, including Democrats Beto O'Rourke and Pete Gallego, who represent El Paso. Republican Steve Pearce, who represents southern New Mexico, voted no because he felt the bill didn't do enough to reduce the deficit and would have reduced oil and gas royalties to New Mexico.
O'Rourke, Gallego and Pearce all have signed on as co-sponsors of a bill to restore the current COLA formula for retirees.
"The Bipartisan Budget Act temporarily addressed sequestration, but the military pension issue is problematic for many families," said Gallego, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "Since passing the budget deal, I've been working to find the right solution. The legislation I've (co-sponsored) eliminates cuts to the cost of living adjustments brought about by the budget deal. It's difficult to get certain members of Congress to move fast on anything, but I'm glad this fix started moving within a week of passing the budget deal."
Pearce spokesman Eric Layer said the southern New Mexico congressman is a co-sponsor of a couple of bills by House Armed Services Chairman Miller to restore the COLAs.
O'Rourke said there "are far better ways to get our fiscal house in order other than reducing benefits that were promised to career service members,"
We agree. Congress should reinstate the military retiree COLAs, and cut elsewhere in the budget.