New bi-partisan budget to leave many NEPA veterans with less COLA
By Joe Yanik
Thousands of military retirees in northeastern Pennsylvania will soon begin seeing less of their veteran compensation benefits thanks to lawmakers in Washington D.C.
In late December 2013, President Obama signed into law a bi-partisan budget that included a 1% cut in benefits to military retirees younger than 62 resulting in about a $6.2 billion reduction over the course of 10 years in the Cost of Living Allowance, or COLA.
The new law, called The Ryan-Murray Budget Plan, reflects the government’s effort to decrease defense spending in 2014 and beyond. One way is to reform military compensation.
To justify this reform, the Committee on the Budget posted a report on its website citing data from the DOD’s Office of the Actuary.
“In FY 2012 there were 2.3 million military retirees and survivor-benefit recipients. They received approximately $52 billion in payments. Retirement outlays are expected to rise to about $55 billion by 2017 and to $59 billion by 2022 (all in 2012 dollars). The costs to the total federal budget of military retirement benefits have been rising each year because of a predictably slow rise in the number of retirees and survivors and cost-of-living increases. Between FY 2002 and FY 2012, payments to military retirees from the Military Retirement Fund rose by 49 percent.”
Some of the nation’s senior military leaders have voiced support for the retiree benefits compensation reform, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations.
“We have to grapple with compensation within the military,” Odierno said as he met with Congress in November 2013. “The cost of a Soldier has doubled since 2001. It’s going to almost double again by 2025. We can’t go on like this. So we have to come up with compensation packages, not taking money away, but reducing the rate of increase of pay increases, of basic housing allowance you brought up, look at the commissaries, look at health care. We have to have a total package that allows us to reduce this cost.”
“About 50 percent of every Defense Department dollar goes to personnel predominantly as compensation. And if we keep going this way, it’ll be at 60, and then it’ll be at 70 in about a decade plus. . . . I think it’s our responsibility to take a hard look at it,” said Greenert.
Before receiving a presidential signature, The Ryan-Murray Budget Plan passed the House of Representatives by a margin of 332-94, which included “Yea” votes from NEPA State Representatives Lou Barletta, Matt Cartwright and Tom Marino. The bill passed the Senate by a margin of 67-33, which included a supporting vote from Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, Jr.