Congress seems certain to cut back the number of raises that retirees -- federal and military -- get each year to keep pace with inflation. Under the current system, retirees get increases each April and October pegged to the inflation rate.

The October, 1979 raise was 6.9 percent. The April, 1980 raise was 6 percent.

In an effort to cut administrative and compounding costs, the Senate and House budget committees have approved language that would give federal-military retirees one raise a year -- each July -- when social security benefits are adjusted.

Chairman James M. Hanley (D-N. Y.) and a dozen other committee chairmen have protested this and other proposals of the budget committee. If adopted by Congress they can force committees -- like Hanley's Post Office and Civil Service Committee -- to clear the legislation whether they like it or not.

Most members of the Post Office Civil Service Committee oppose the cut in the cost-of-living raise, and would bottle it up if possible. Hanley and other chairmen, worried about the growing power of the budget committee, have asked House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill to advise the House Budget Committee to stay out of their turf. His decision could make, or break, the congressional drive this year to trim federal-military retirement benefits.