Lawmakers Scramble to Undo Military Pension Cuts

By Robert Longley
January 2, 2014

A bipartisan herd of lawmakers are now hurrying to repeal the cuts to military retirement benefits that were so clearly included in the compromise budget bill Congress just uncharacteristically hurried to pass.

Jammed through the legislative process just before Congress members fled Washington for their winter break, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 contained several cost-cutting measures, including one that mandated a $6 billion cut in retirement benefits for about 800,000 newly retired servicemembers.

Also See: Cutting the Deficit Means Pain for All
The measure would save the $6 billion by cutting cost-of-living increases for newly retired, working-age enlisted troops and officers by 1% until they reach age 62. At age 62, they would once again receive the full COLA increase.
But if the members of Congress didn't notice that a bill they had just passed cut veterans' benefits, veterans certainly did, and congressional Twitter feeds soon started blowing up in a very bad way.

We Take it Back!

Almost immediately, lawmakers started hitting the legislative "undo" button.

On December 19, Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), introduced a bill that would repeal the provision cutting military retirement benefits. Claiming bipartisan support, Rep. Fitzpatrick said his undo bill (H.R. 3788) would recover the $6 billion in savings by strengthening laws preventing people - including some undocumented immigrants - from fraudulently receiving tax credits.

Then, the floodgates opened.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), running for reelection in this year's mid-term election, introduced a bill repealing the cut to military COLA's, making up the $6 billion by "eliminating a tax loophole for offshore corporations," according to her press release.

Not wanting to feel left out, and representing districts with a strong military influence, more lawmakers jumped on the repeal train.

The Republican trio of Sens. Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma.), and Lindsey O. Graham (South Carolina) all issued statements against the military COLA cut.

And on December 23, the bipartisan team of Reps. Julia Brownley (D-California) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced their own versions of bills to repeal the cuts.

"As a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, I believe our servicemembers, veterans, and their families must receive the benefits they have earned and deserve," Brownley said in a press release. "These benefits are owed to them without equivocation. That is why I have introduced legislation to repeal the military retiree COLA reduction."

Oh, by the way, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 also included a provision that requires newly hired civilian federal employees to contribute a larger chunk of their paychecks to theirretirement plans. Lawmakers, however, are not lining up to repeal it.