The American Legion voiced its outrage over budget cuts on military
retirees' benefits at a December 18 press conference in Washington. The
U.S. Senate had just passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which -
if signed by the president - will reduce cost-of-living adjustment
(COLA) benefits for America's retired veterans by more than $6 billion.
The bill was worked out between Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep.
Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and passed the Senate by a 64-36 vote. Murray and
Ryan claim the measure will drop the country's deficit by $23 billion
and reduce the impact of sequestration.
"Passing this broken legislation today was wrong," Louis Celli, the
Legion's Legislative director said at the press conference. "It was
wrong because (the Senate) had time to fix it, and ... chose not to."
While several bills have already been introduced into Congress to repeal
the COLA cuts, "some who seek to 'technically fix' this provision are
only looking to repeal the portion that affects medically retired
veterans," Celli said. "I guess the rest of the military retirees aren't
worth the trouble to fix."
The reductions in COLA benefits would affect about 900,000 military
retirees, including those who are medically retired. Over a 10-year
period, COLA benefits would be reduced by 1 percent per year, resulting
in a total savings of $6.3 billion.
Noting that the 113th Congress has passed only 58 pieces of legislation
out of more than 6,600 introduced, Celli said, "And now we're supposed
to put our faith and trust in the same Congress to pass a law that
overturns this (COLA provision), when they were unable to fix it in the
first place? Make no mistake - The American Legion will dedicate every
available resource to repealing and overturning this provision.
"The day would go down in history as the day Congress turned their backs
on veterans everywhere by selling out 0.2 percent of the American
population and asking them to be held financially responsible to pay for
National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said he is "absolutely sickened
by the thought that the only group targeted by the budget bill to lose
direct income is the American veteran, including veterans who have been
medically retired from military service due to catastrophic injuries
sustained in battle."
The American Legion