Words by Wes O'Donnell.
Progress has been made in the attempts to reverse cuts to pension benefits for military retirees under age 62 set to take effect in 2015. On Monday, the Senate voted 94-0 to advance a bill that would prevent these budget cuts from happening. Even though this initial step has been taken it is not known when this bill would be put into effect.
The previous bill approved by Congress last year called for cuts to be made to military retirees under age 62 cost of living pension increases to remain under the current rates of inflation. They would receive annual cost of living allowances 1% point lower than the cost of living allowances scheduled to be given to those on Social Security and other federal retirees, on average costing each of these veterans approximately $80,000. The new bill, introduced by Democrat Senator Mark Pryor and drafted by the Democrats, proposes that $7 billion over 10 years be budgeted to prevent these cuts from taking place. Unfortunately the bill does not give any suggestions on how to compensate for the increase in necessary funds.
This addition to the countries deficit have Republicans wanting to make cuts in other areas to compensate. One suggestion made was to close a tax loophole costing taxpayer over $4 billion annually that is used by individuals, including illegal aliens, who are taking tax credits for either non-resident children or phantom children. Requiring a Social Security number to be provided on tax returns could help put an end to this loophole. Republican Senator Rodger Wicker urged officials to present ideas on how to offset the costs this bill will incur and put them to vote to avoid increase the already high deficit. Another proposed bill would repeal the cost of living cuts and pay for it by using money from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund as it is exempt from the Congress’ spending cap.
It is easy to understand why veterans and military associations were outraged. Many view it as a way to gain political favor or implement a desired agenda. Veterans and military members have endured many financial hardships as of late due to the previous government shutdown which wreaked havoc on many of their personal finances. As both parties argue back and forth as to the best way to implement and pay for the bill, it has been argued that veterans and members of the military have already paid enough through their service to deserve this right to compensation whether politicians find a way to cover the lost funds or not.
The next step for this bill following Senate approval is a move to the House, held by a Republican majority.
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