Pentagon leadership has been on a relentless (unchallenged) campaign for some time now decrying the rising costs of salaries and benefits for the military service members and for retirees. SecDef Hagel has spoken frequently about compensation and benefits swamping the Pentagon budget and in need of "reforming." Yesterday, Hagel's staff, Sec Fox and ADM Winnefeld, carried the "reform" message to the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC), chaired by Sen Carl Levin.
When Sec Fox told the panel the Pentagon favored repealing the the 1% COLA cut for disabled veterans but wished to keep the "working age" retiree COLA cut in place until after the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) report is filed on May 1, 2014. This unglued the panel.
When it was Sen Wicker's turn he wondered aloud if anyone looked into the potential impact of the cuts to veterans. Unfortunately, he did not let the panel answer but stated the impact could be enormous for those affected. He then challenged Sec Fox on the Pentagon's rationale. He asked, but subsequently answered his own question as to why they wanted to keep the COLA cut in place for "working age" age military retirees, but favored repealing them for medically retired vets. He rightly surmised the Pentagon wanted to keep the cuts in place to coincide with the release of the MCRMC report, in case the commissioners recommended keeping the cuts in tact.
He concluded that was too long of a wait and this sends the wrong message and breaks faith to those who have already served. He recommended the Senate to go ahead and repeal the cut.
As with every message that comes from Washington, there is drama. The COLA cut law was no exception. It was becoming clear from this Senate panel hearing the COLA cut was concocted during a back-room deal "between two people" and Senate members of the budget negotiating team were not aware of the implementation.
I am inclined to believe the real culprit for this slight was from the usual suspect: Rep Paul Ryan. Rep Ryan was a commissioner for the Pete Peterson Foundation sponsored National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform commission. One of its recommendations was to eliminate all COLAs to military pensions. Period. Forever. These people want to inflict pain on the military under the disguise of crises.
It appears the Senate will act to remove the COLA cut. When? We do not know, but hopefully soon. Unfortunately, major concerns persist. The Pentagon is hell bent on demoralizing active duty service members. They are insisting on rolling back pay raises because they want to modernize, train and properly equip their people. Sacrificing pay, in their view, should cover those areas. What will happen is more troops and their families will be on food stamps in the very near future if they get their way.
Our men and women in uniform deserve good pay and benefits and that is something worth fighting for.