Words by Bridget Foster.
The budget deal reached late last December by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray included a controversial provision to reduce the cost of living adjustment for working age military retirees by 1 percent. The COLA reduction was designed to save the federal government $6 billion over a period of ten years. That reduction may soon be replaced if legislation proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders is passed in the Senate next week.
Announced by Sanders on Wednesday, S. 1950, known as the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Restoration Bill, incorporates a body of other previously proposed legislation aimed at restoring or improving veterans’ health, education and employment benefits. The bill, which took over a year to cobble together, is a bipartisan effort and has been described as the most comprehensive veteran’s legislation to come before the Senate in decades.
In addition to restoring the COLA, the proposed bill would, in Sanders’ words “deliver on the promises that we have made to our service members…we have to do everything possible to give back to them and their families.” The massive bill has received support from most of the major veteran’s service organizations, including the DAV, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Military Officers Association of America, which was one of the first organizations to speak out in support of the bill.
In addition to restoring the 1 percent COLA reduction, key provisions of the legislation would:
The greatest obstacle to passage of the legislation is the proposed funding source: $30 billion dollars from the Pentagon’s war budget of $92 billion dollars. Senator Sanders considers it a “legitimate use of …money…for the people who defended us.” The Senate is expected to consider the legislation after next week’s congressional recess.
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