Thursday, January 16, 2014

Did This Legendarily Inert Congress Really Just Get Off the Floor And Do Something Right for Our Troops & Veterans?

Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders
It’s been a pretty positive week in Washington for our troops and veterans. As you've probably heard, Congressional negotiators have shockingly agreed on a $1.1 trillion spending package that almost everyone says is a pretty good deal. Go figure! And one of the real positives of this whopping budget agreement is that it gives active-duty military a one percent pay raise. 

But wait, there's been even more surprising action from this historically do-nothing Congress. New legislation being filed tonight in the Senate would get rid of the one-percent cut in cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for working-age military retirees that was a particularly disagreeable part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), told his fellow Senators this evening that the Comprehensive Veterans' Health and Benefits and Military Retiree Pay Restoration Act of 2014 will rescind that highly controversial provision and keep these benefits intact for military retirees under age 62.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan wanted to cut military pay
One of the architects of that 2013 budget deal, Rep. Paul Ryan, who was the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate, defended the cuts to military retirement pay, saying in a USA Today op-ed that there was "simply no choice between responsible reforms of military compensation and making what our military leadership has called ‘disproportionate cuts to military readiness and modernization'."

But veterans organizations and many others strongly disagreed with Ryan's assertion and have been urging Congress to restore these cuts. And it appears Congress got the message.

Sanders, who told his fellow Senators tonight that this legislation "completely eliminates" the military retirement cuts, also said on a positive note that "at a time when there is an enormous amount of divisiveness and partisanship here in the Senate, there has been a great deal of bipartisan effort in the SVAC."

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