Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS
For the last several years AUSA has been leading the fight to end the draconian cuts in defense spending caused by sequestration and to mitigate the devastating effect it has had on national security, military readiness, modernization and procurement.
Accordingly, we were thrilled when Republicans and Democrats finally worked together and hammered out a bill designed to break the stranglehold that sequestration has had on the Department of Defense. The legislation restores budget certainty for the Army for the next two years and paves the way for appropriations legislation that will provide much more financial flexibility within Army accounts. The Army will gain some significant budgetary advantage and certainty from the legislation.
What we are absolutely apoplectic about is the suddenly-revealed provision contained in the bill that would negatively affect the calculation of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for under-age-62 military retirees! The bill would require a one percent reduction in COLA for military retirees until they reach age 62. It effectively targets a group within a group, creating some retirees who are paying the price for the deal and others who are not – to say nothing of currently serving Soldiers who, when they retire will be penalized as well.
We were caught off guard by the provision because we have been assured time and again by the administration and Congress that any changes to the military compensation and benefits package would be grandfathered for the current force.
We will not let this stand and here is what we are doing to fight it:
ü AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., and Government Affairs Director William Loper met with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., yesterday afternoon. Ayotte is one of several senators leading the fight to identify alternative funding to replace the provision. In addition to meeting with Ayotte, Sullivan visited with Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. He also conferred with professional staff from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
ü Sullivan and Loper joined other members of The Military Coalition at a press conference held by Graham, Wicker and Ayotte. All attending agreed to work together to ensure this provision is repealed before it takes effect in December 2015. In fact, the members would like to see it repealed before the budget law takes effect in mid-January. AUSA completely supports this.
ü Sullivan and Loper also dropped by the offices Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., and delivered letters to both leaders that clearly outlines our position.
We are encouraged by statements made by Levin and his House counterpart, Rep. Buck McKeon.
Levin said that, “A number of concerns have been raised about the provision in the Murray-Ryan budget agreement that would reduce the annual cost of living increase to the retired pay of working-age military retirees. The Senate Armed Services Committee is going to review this change after we convene next year, before it takes effect in December 2015.”
McKeon echoed Levin’s sentiment. He said, “I remain concerned with the way military pensions are treated in this agreement. Congress is waiting on the recommendations of an independent panel studying military compensation. Incremental changes to compensation generate uncertainty and are corrosive to the all-volunteer military. If we are going to change compensation, I would prefer it to be done at one time in a transparent manner that considers the entire spectrum of compensation. By impacting the pensions of current military retirees while grandfathering current civilian employees, this particular provision represents an imbalance that I expect the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission and the Armed Services Committee to reexamine in the coming years."
AUSA, with your help, has fought since the beginning of sequestration to end the arbitrary, cookie cutter approach to deficit reduction. Now, along with you, we will fight with equal vigor to undo the provision of the new law that creates an enormous penalty for current and future military retirees who protect and defend this nation.
Please click here, enter your zip code, and send the AUSA-suggested letter titled Repeal the Military Retiree COLA Cut.
The good news is that we have time to fix this and we will not stop until it is fixed! Do your part to help and send a letter to your members of Congress.