Spending bill removes pension cuts for disabled military retirees, but not others

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Disabled military retirees caught a break from a controversial pension cut but working age military retirees did not as the House sent a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to the Senate on Wednesday.

The appropriations measure keeps intact a provision from the budget agreement Congress and President Obama approved last month reducing cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015. A higher rate would apply again once the former service members reach age 62.

Military groups have sharply criticized that cut and called on lawmakers to repeal it. They say the provision could cost an E-7 as much as $83,000 by the time he or she serves enough years to retire with a pension.

(Paula Bronstein/Getty)
(Paula Bronstein/Getty)

“Congress broke its promise to veterans by agreeing to cuts to military retirees,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The new spending bill includes an amendment that excludes disabled retirees and their survivors from the pension reduction, but military groups say that is not enough.

“To do anything less than full repeal is a breach of faith with our military service members, retirees and their families,” the Veterans of Foreign Wars said in a statement on Wednesday.

Numerous Democratic and Republican lawmakers have proposed legislation to repeal the pension cut, with most of those plans replacing the projected $6 billion in savings over 10 years with other deficit-reduction measures such as ending Saturday mail delivery and stopping aid to Egypt and Pakistan.

None of those proposals are moving through Congress as fast as the omnibus spending bill, so the best chance for a repeal in the near-term rests with the Senate, which could add another amendment to the legislation for younger military retirees.

Veterans groups have ramped up their efforts this week to make the pension cut disappear, calling on supporters to contact their lawmakers and demand an undoing of the provision.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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