Unless congressional budget-cutters do a complete turnaround soon, this will probably be the last year that retired government and military personnel -- 100,000 of them in this area -- enjoy the benefits of cost-of-living (COL) adjustments every six months.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, under pressure from the powerful Budget Committee, has voted to eliminate the March COL catch-up. Retirees would be limited to a single COL raise each year, in September.

This week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the House Post Office-Civil Service Committee begins "markup" on a legislative package handed it by the House Budget Committee. It would also limit retirees to one COL boost a year.

The PO-CS units has three options, and very little room to operate within the cutbacks directed by the Budget Committee. It can drop either the March raise from the COL cycle, kill off the September boost or do nothing. In order to do nothing -- that is keep both COL raises -- it would have to do plenty, and come up with an offsetting $500 million savings (the amount Uncle Sam would save by giving one COL per year rather than two to civilian retirees).

Backers of the twice yearly COL raise cycle, which also benefits military retirees, hope they can pull a half-billion rabbit out of the hat and save the raises. If the civilians keep their two COLs, military retirees will too. If civilians lose it, so will military retirees.

If (this is a very "iffy" situation, you understand) the House Committee manages to save the twice yearly COLs, and if the full House goes along with the plan, the final solution will be worked out by Senate-House conferees on the budget later this year. Betting is that the twice-a-year inflation catch-up system will be chopped in half before Congress adjourns.