Effect of budget angers retired military members


MAYPORT, Fla. – Retired military will see their benefits reduced as a result of the new federal budget.

Congress sounds ready to rethink the issue as soon as the new year begins, but this side effect is angering many.

Retired diplomats and ranking officers won't see the impact of a reduced cost-of-living adjustment in the new budget that a younger sailor or soldier would see.

That still doesn't make it right in their eyes.

"What it affects is people who've been fighting the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Ret. Adm. Bob Natter, who served 41 years in the Navy.

He sees the big picture and says there is certainly a benefit to the new budget getting passed by Congress and the Senate: A spending plan that can be counted on.

"The agreement is positive -- House and Senate, two parties come together, provide stability for our budgeting process," Natter said. "In other words, Congress is all of a sudden acting like adults."

But Natter also sees the harm it does in reducing the compensation given to retired military members.

"It's good first step, but Congress has to correct the agreement that singled out military retirees and said, 'Hey, war's almost over, thanks for your service, now we're going to put it to ya.'"

"That's a mistake and we need to fix it," said Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "It's unconscionable that we would be cutting COLA benefits for those who'd put their lives on the line to keep us free and safe."

Soderberg said she still has security clearance in her current role and believes lawmakers in Washington D.C. need to rethink, revise and replace the rule that lowers the COLA for military members who retired but are still working age.

"If they don't reverse it, there will be huge backlash, and that would force them to reconsider," Soderberg said. "There are other places to get that money, not our military families."

"The defense budget and military pay needs to be adjusted but done in concert with the budget, not singling them out," Natter said.

The Ryan-Murray budget reduces the cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees, but the provision doesn't take effect until 2016.

Much sooner than that, Congress will take up the issue for review.

Paul Ryan told reporters that it's a smaller adjustment for inflation because those retired members of the military, in most cases, still earn another paycheck. He said it's more important right now to get the Pentagon budget where it needs to be.

About the Authors: