In 2013, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 made its way through the House and Senate in an attempt to ease some of the financial strain taken on by the U.S. government. Among some of the $2 trillion spending adjustments proposed was a $6 billion cut to the pensions of our country’s veterans.
The Act was passed by a strong majority in both the Senate and the House, with 55 Democrats lending their votes to the eventual 64-26 victory in the U.S. Senate. Much to the alarm of many working age veterans, the budget deal was set to shave off a small percentage of pension pay for veterans under the age of 62.
Essentially, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 was designed to reduce spending and debt in a variety of different areas so as to spread the effects out. For the $6 billion portion of the deal affecting veterans, a reduction of 1% below inflation from each year’s Cost of Living Adjustment (COAL) was put into place. This deal was structured to affect veterans under the age of 62, which meant that many working age veterans were facing reductions in pension income that could drastically affect their lives.
The passage of this Act in both the House and the Senate was met with strong opposition from the military’s supporters. How, they asked, was it fair to take away any of a veteran’s pension under the guise of saving money? Many of those affected have served overseas or in other situations in which their lives are at stake. How is this the way to thank them for their service and sacrifice?
“A sergeant first class who retires at age 40 could stand to lose $72,000 by the time he turns or she turns age 62,” New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte told NPR. It wasn’t fair, she explained, to take away this portion of their retirement.
Indeed, the loss of potentially thousands of dollars could have devastating effects for veterans who depend on their pension pay to cover costs and supporting dependents. As a concession, the Act was designed so that military retirees would receive a payment of the lost pension funds once they did turn 62, to make up for the reduction. This wasn’t good enough for veteran supporters, however, as the loss of that income could affect them much more in the shorter term.
Many opponents to the Cost of Living Adjustment reduction have said that this proposal serves more of the here and now and exemplifies how insensitive many in the U.S. have become regarding the plight of many veterans.
The 55 Democrats who cast their votes in favor of passing the budget deal in 2013 would later be faced with a repeal vote after much opposition was brought forth on behalf of the affected veterans. In February of 2014, the act was repealed and changes were made to the tune of a 95-3 Senate vote and a 326-90 House vote. Instead of affecting veterans younger than 62, the budget deal would only apply to those entering into service after January 1, 2014. While not an all-out victory for all veterans, this was considered a success to protect the veterans who would otherwise be seeing a reduction in their pension pay.
It’s important to vote into office lawmakers who support veteran rights and support. The overwhelming support by the Democratic Senators who helped pass the budget act in 2013 should not be taken lightly. While this act garnered bipartisan support, it’s important to look at every elected official’s stance on supporting veterans when decided whom to support in future elections.
A recent opinion piece penned by Democratic Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala shed light on her support of a restructuring of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that has the potential to severely hurt and limit our country’s veterans. What exactly is Congresswoman Shalala asking for? Find out here.