VA bill offers chance to repeal military pension cut after passage of spending bill

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Congress on Thursday gave final approval to a massive spending bill that will trim pensions for younger military retirees, but lawmakers still have a chance to end the controversial provision before it takes full effect in 2015.

An omnibus Veterans Affairs bill awaiting action in the Senate would repeal the cut, offering perhaps the next best opportunity to roll back the policy. The bill is expected to be considered after next week’s recess, according to an aide for Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who introduced the legislation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) - J.Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – J.Scott Applewhite/AP

During remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Sanders said the measure “delivers on the promises that we have made to our service members,” adding that it “addresses virtually every single issue that the veterans community has been concerned about.”

A slew of other proposals to end the pension cut are likely to find less support than the sweeping VA bill, since most of them include provisions to replace the savings with alternative reductions that could meet with greater resistance, such as a plan to end Saturday mail delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.

The controversial pension measure, enacted through the budget deal Congress and President Obama signed last month, would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015. A higher rate would apply once those individuals reach age 62.

The spending bill approved on Thursday included an amendment to exclude disabled military retirees from the cut.

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

Military and veterans groups have lashed out against the pension reduction, saying it amounts to Congress reneging on its promise of certain benefits to service members who put their lives on the line. They have called for a full repeal of the measure, saying the exemption for disabled retirees does not go far enough.

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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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