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Cost of Living Allowance 1-percent reduction hurts retired military personnel

Saturday, February 01, 2014

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.

Late last month, Republicans and Democrats finally worked together and produced 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.

However, there is a provision in the bill that will negatively affect the calculation of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for under-age-62 military retirees!

It requires a 1-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.

Both the administration and Congress have said repeatedly that any changes to the military compensation and benefits package would be grandfathered for the current force, so we and our Military Coalition partners are fighting hard to remove this outrageous provision.

Here are some of the things we are doing to fight it:

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., and I met with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., in her office.

She is one of several senators leading the fight to identify alternative funding to replace the provision. In addition to meeting with her, we visited with Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

We also conferred with professional staff from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sullivan and I joined other members of The Military Coalition at a press conference held by Senators 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All attending agreed to work together to ensure this provision is repealed before it takes effect in December 2015.

In fact, the members would like to see it repealed before the budget law takes effect in mid-January.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.

Sullivan and I also dropped by the offices of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., to deliver letters from to both leaders that clearly outlines our position.

Sullivan is sending 538 similar letters to all other members of Congress urging a bipartisan solution to this breach of faith with military personnel.

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.

There is some other news on the legislative front.

At last the FY 2014 Defense Authorization Bill has been voted and has been signed by the president.

The bill includes a one percent basic pay raise for military service members – less than AUSA and its Military Coalition partners advocated, but at least a pay raise.

As AUSA urged, the Congress maintained the TRICARE fee increases at no more than the cost of living increases rather than the higher fee increases proposed by the administration.

Also by the time you read this, the second session of the 113th Congress will have begun and the president’s State of the Union address will be about to occur.

The Congress will be preparing to receive the budget request for FY 2015 in early February.

One can only guess if Congress will be able to complete the appropriations process by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 since this fiscal year still is being funded by a continuing resolution four months into the year.

If the past few years are any indication, it is not likely that the new congress will do any better.

Apparently nine months is just not long enough to birth money, especially when you factor in the President’s Day recess, the Spring recess, the Memorial Day recess, the July Fourth recess, and the August recess which, in essence, reduce the nine months to six months.

Regardless of the speed with which Congress marches, AUSA will be offering testimony, making visits to members of Congress, and joining with the many other organizations in The Military Coalition – all to make our voice for the soldier heard in the halls of the Capitol.

We will be working to promote enactment of legislation that will benefit our membership.

There are many issues that remain:

Maintaining pay parity between the military and civilian sectors.

Full concurrent receipt for all disabled retirees.

Ending the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset for survivors.

Limiting increases in TRICARE fees/deductibles to COLA increases.

Prohibiting TRICARE for Life enrollment fees.

Retaining the current retirement system.

Maintaining funded Army operational end strength sufficient to support our national defense strategy, Joint Force and Army mission requirements.

Maintaining assured access to the reserve component.

Increasing funding for spare parts, maintenance and training.

Full funding for resetting the Current Force.

Maintaining defense spending of at least 4 percent of GDP/Army share of at least 28 percent.

Providing pay and benefits for reserve component personnel and their families that are commensurate with their active duty counterparts.

These are just some of the legislative issues that will be part of the AUSA agenda for 2014.

In the next few months, as the legislative session revs up, we will urge you to use the prepared letters in the "Legislative Action Center" of the AUSA website – www.ausa.org – to speak out on issues of importance.

We will keep you informed through AUSA NEWS and ARMY Magazine, as well as through our electronic legislative newsletter -which will arrive via e-mail each week.

If you are not yet receiving the newsletter, just send an e-mail to [email protected].

The Directorate of Government Affairs hopes that you had a joyous holiday season and are well on the way to a glorious New Year.

AUSA’s holiday gift to you is our promise to continue to be the Voice for the Army providing Support for the Soldier