By Debbie Gregory.
In December, both houses of Congress approved a deal to fund the federal government. In that deal, our elected leaders agreed to decrease the Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) from the pensions of Military retirees. The decrease was set to begin in 2015, and was estimated to save the government $6.3 billion over 10 years. But it begged the question, at what cost?
The cuts to retiree’s pensions were to affect every Veteran under the age of 62 who was collecting a pension. This would mean that more than 750,000 Veterans would have to sacrifice their promised reward for 20+ years of service. This was a tough pill to swallow, especially for recent and soon to-be retirees who have just spent more than twelve years at war. The cuts were expected to cost an enlisted Veteran retiree approximately $69,000, and retired officers an estimated $87,000 over the course of their lifetimes.
Saddened, angered and feeling betrayed, Veterans, Veterans groups and patriotic Americans who recognized a raw deal when they saw one, banded together to voice their unified objections to their elected law makers. Bills were proposed in both the House and the Senate, designed to repeal the cuts made to military pensions.
On Tuesday, February 11th, the House voted an overwhelming 326 to 90 in favor of reinstating complete pensions and COLAs for all military retirees who enlisted prior to January 1st, 2014. Many bills, especially those concerning pensions and Veterans benefits, make it through the House only to get shot down in the Senate.
On Wednesday, February 12th, the Senate voted on whether or not to reinstate the complete pensions and COLAs to military retirees. By a vote of 95 to 3, the Senate voted in favor of Veterans. They, too, approved the reinstatement of complete pensions and COLAs for all military retirees who enlisted prior to January 1st , 2014.
This entire episode can be used as a lesson in the power of individuals. Alone, we are powerless, voiceless and ineffective. But united, we are mighty, with an overpowering voice that can’t be ignored and can effect change.
Please remember this, as the fight is not over. Many Veterans and Veterans groups are still not happy that their younger comrades, who have enlisted after the first of the year will still get their retirements reduced, according to these recently passed bills. Veterans are counting, once again, on patriotic Americans who support their military.