Pressure groups representing federal and military personnel and retirees face long odds and a fast-approaching May 15 deadline in their fight to save their twice-yearly cost-of-living (COL) raises from budget cutters.
Both the Senate and House budget committees are determined to eliminate one of the two COL raises that government and military retirees get each year to keep pace with inflation. Those increases now come in March and September.
The committees are proposing a single COL adjustment -- in July -- for ex-military and civil servants. That would eliminate million of dollars worth of raises that come from compounding, and would put federal retirees under the same once-a-year COL system used by Social Security
The White House, as reported here earlier, favors the single COL adjustment.
Leaders of the Senate and House budget committees have both the will and the clout this year to make the single COL adjustment plan law. The nation is in an economy mood, this is a very cuttable program -- from a political standpoint -- and the president supports it.
Past attempts to limit federal retirees to a single COL raise annually were blocked by Senate-House in-fighting, or refusal of committees with jurisdiction over civil service-military pension matters to consider them. These roadblocks won't be around this year.
When Congress created its budget committees it gave them extraordinary power to order other committees to act on legislation or budget cuts approved by the budget committees. This year the Senate and House budget committes are prepared to force "jurisdictional committees" -- Governmental Affairs in the Senate, and Post Office-Civil Service in the House -- to act on the proposal for a single COL raise.
Eager to protect the COL raises -- which is now in March and September -- of federal-military retirees, a coalition of unions and organizations representing civil servants and retirees is asking for a face-to-face meeting with President Carter. And they will urge their members to bombard the White House and Congress with letters before May 15, when the budgets set by Congress must be approved.
Congress is moving to put the new COL timetable into effect as quickly as possible. Under the House Budget Committee plan that just cleared that unit, retirees would get a "special adjustment" raise this July. But they would not get the COL due them September of this year. After the special July 1980 raise, the retirees would go on the new schedule, getting full inflation catch-ups each July.