The House this week is expected to vote to cut one of the two cost-of-living rises that automatically go to federal and military retirees each year.
Retirees now have their pensions linked to the cost-of-living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Adjustments ar made twice annually-March and September-to keep them roughly current with inflation.
The House Budget Committee has proposed that the living cost adjustment be changed back to a single raise-July of each year-similar to the system used for Social Security beneficiaries.
Retirees' groups and federal and postal unions are fighting the single annuity adjustment idea. But it appears to be a lost cause. The only significant congressional support for retaining the generous March and September adjustments comes from Washington area members. They represent the nation's largest concentration of employes and retirees and a big bloc of active and retired military personnel. (There are about 70,000 civilian retirees living in the Washington area.)
The budget committee argument is that federal retirees are treated as a favored group with two raises a year. The effect of double raises, the committee says, is to compound the raises retirees get. Most private pensions plans give workers raises annually, and not for the full amount of the cost of living, the budget committee says.
Government retirees say that the program is being sold incorrectly as inflation-fighting. The missed point, they say, is that their pensions go up because of inflation and do not trigger higher living costs. They see this as a another broken premises by Congress, which has been gradually de-liberalizing the federal pension adjustment program in recent years.