An Ungrateful Congress Screws Its Own Military

Posted on Sat 01/04/2014 by


20080516_lee_ce_photoBy Gregory D. Lee ~20140102_MilitaryRetirement_LARGE

The budget just passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama is shameful because it reduces the cost of living allowance (COLA) by 1% for military retirees under age 62.

In an effort for full disclosure, I am a retired U.S. Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer Five and Afghanistan War veteran. This COLA reduction will not affect me because I’ll be 62 by the time the reduction kicks in.

Younger retirees will soon lose tens of thousands of dollars they were promised when they volunteered to join the military. Elected politicians scoff at that because they claim these younger retirees will join the civilian workforce and have additional income in their retirement years. Have they considered how this will affect the over 50,000 retired servicemen and women who suffer from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, or are physically handicapped from the lost of one or more limbs on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan? These wounded warriors, who may never become gainfully employed again, were not exempted from the reduction in the COLA.

I fault both Democrats and Republican members of Congress who in their haste to go home for the Christmas holidays, decided it was more important to get out of town then actually consider the ramifications of their budget vote.

After the fact, Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), who voted for the budget, has introduced H.R. 3804, which would completely repeal the reduction in COLA for military retirees. She wants it both ways like most politicians do. Rep. Rodney Davis, (R-IL) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), both of whom voted for the budget, have introduced similar bills as well.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced H.R. 3808, which would exempt service members retired with disabilities from the COLA reductions. Then why did he vote for the reduction for these disabled veterans in the first place? What about retired military members without disabilities? They were promised a full COLA as well.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-NH), who is up for reelection in 2014 and voted for the budget, has introduced a bill to restore the full COLA by “eliminating a tax loophole for offshore corporations,” according to a news release from her office.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), who did not vote for the budget, has also introduced a similar bill as Brownley’s. At least, he’s genuinely trying to undo the damage to the military retirees instead of undoing the damage to his reelection prospects.

What makes any of these members of Congress think that this Commander-in-Chief would sign such legislation? President Obama has already signed the budget bill into law, and for him to restore cuts to military retirees seems highly unlikely.

Did members of Congress who voted to reduce retiree’s COLA consider the effect it will have on future military recruitment and retention?

Only 17% of military members stay the entire 20-years required to qualify for a retirement. Instead of training 83% of the military over and over again during a 20-year period, servicemen and women should be encouraged to stay in the military where they can look forward to a retirement. Wouldn’t that be more cost effective? But instead, Congress, by its recent actions, will encourage more mid-career military service members to look elsewhere, if they can find a job at all in this economy.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) once said at a veteran’s event in 2008: “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam. And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it – Afghanistan or Iraq – we owe our military men and women unconditional support.” He later admitted that he had never been to Vietnam, and did everything he could to get deferments while attending college. While running for the Senate, he surrounded himself with VFW members at a news conference as he tearfully tried to explain away his lies about his Vietnam service. I wonder how those veterans, who supported him then, feel about him now considering he voted for the COLA reduction.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was quoted to say that “Veterans have to pay their fair share,” as if military retirees and wounded warriors haven’t already done so when they put their lives on the line, endured crippling mental and physical injuries, multiple deployments, and long family separations.

Not one Democratic senator and only 32 Democratic Representatives voted against the budget bill that reduces military retirement. A shocking 169 of the 320 Republican Congressmen voted for the budget. Nine Republican-In-Name-Only Senators voted for the budget. They wanted to ensure the media would not blame them for another partial government shutdown.

I don’t think the 1.9 million military retirees and their families will soon forget which Members of Congress voted to screw them.

To see if your Congressman voted to reduce military pensions use these links:

How the Senators Voted: Click Here

How the House Members Voted: Click Here Contributing Editor Gregory D. Lee is a retired DEA Supervisory Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the author of three criminal justice textbooks. While on DEA diplomatic assignment in Pakistan, he was involved in the investigation of several notable terrorism events and arrests. He recently retired after more than 39 years of active and reserve service from the U.S. Army Reserve as a Chief Warrant Officer Five Special Agent for the Criminal Investigation Division Command, better known as CID. In 2011 he completed a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan while on special assignment to the Special Operations Command Europe.

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