Lawmakers are off to a busy start after returning from a week-long break, with some notable congressional hearings taking place on Tuesday. Below are a few hearing topics that grabbed our attention:
Military pension cut: Senate Armed Services Committee (9:30 a.m.)
The panel will examine recent changes to the military retirement system. Working-age military retirees took a hit with the budget deal President Obama signed last month, as the legislation reduced their cost-of-living allowances by 1 percent starting in December 2015 — a higher rate would apply once those individuals reach age 62. The provision will not affect disabled retirees, due to an amendment tacked onto the $1.1 trillion spending bill enacted this month.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America will join Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to call for a repeal of the pension cut during a pre-hearing news conference set to take place at 8:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has proposed an omnibus Veterans Affairs bill that would eliminate the pension reduction, in addition to expanding certain veterans benefits such as dental and medical care, education and caretaker stipends. He said he is open to paying for the measure’s estimated $30 billion cost with savings from the military’s overseas contingency operations, formerly known as the global war on terror.
HealthCare.gov security testing: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (10 a.m.)
The hearing will examine the adequacy of testing for the federal government’s online health-insurance exchange. The site launched in October with myriad glitches. Enrollment numbers have increased drastically after a series of fixes, but questions remain about site security and the Obama administration’s planning.
Hiring military veterans: House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (10 a.m.)
The panel will take a look at private-sector strategies for hiring and retaining veterans, with input from company executives. The committee will also try to gauge the success of various government programs to promote hiring of veterans. The unemployment rate for that demographic has declined from 8.3 percent in December 2010 to 5.5 percent in December 2013, while the current unemployment rate for nonveterans is 6.4 percent.
TSA’s “cadre of criminal investigators”: House Homeland Security Committee (2 p.m.)
The panel will investigate misclassifications of criminal investigators with the Transportation Security Administration, an issue exposed in an audit from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.
The review revealed that TSA was classifying employees as “criminal investigators” without ensuring that they met the criteria under federal law and regulations. “These employees received premium pay and other benefits, although other employees could have performed the same work at a lower cost,” the inspector general said, adding that the agency could save as much as $17.5 million by classifying those workers properly.
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