For the past four years, active-duty troops and veterans have had a tough time making it financially. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that nearly 340,000 veterans receive public money for housing and 900,000 veterans live on food stamps.
Things aren't about to improve. A recent executive order gave military personnel and civilian federal workers a 1 percent pay raise, but that actually represents a cut since military members had been receiving an annual pay increase of 1.8 percent.
On Dec. 1, 2015, a cost-of-living adjustment for pensions of people under 62 will be modified to equal inflation minus 1 percent. Then at 62, retirees would receive a "catch-up" increase that would restore their pensions to reflect levels as if the cost-of-living adjustment in all previous years. That won't make up for the losses, however, since nearly $72,000 in lost benefits is projected over a lifetime for a sergeant first class who retires at age 42.
Veterans groups are upset. American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said the group was "horrified" that the Senate could pass a bill "so unfair to those Americans who have served honorably in uniform."
A Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman predicts the change would prompt an exodus of those at midcareer and that it will hurt efforts to recruit new people into the all-volunteer force.
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who serves all of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County, introduced legislation to remove the adjustments to military retirement benefits by closing loopholes at the IRS that allow for rampant tax credit fraud. He feels this could save nearly $7 billion over 10 years, enough to remove the need to cut military benefits.
Fitzpatrick said his common sense bill would target fraud and abuse within the federal government and use those dollars to help honor our pledge to veterans.
Col. Daniel L. Rubini (Ret.) supports the initiative to get the fraud out of the system and put that money in the hands of our soldiers who have sacrificed more than any other segment of society.
We agree that they need our thanks and support, and not the hollow kind the government is offering.
By Jim Zbick