Friday, December 20, 2013

Who is Responsible for Cutting Veterans’ Retirement Benefits? Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Representative Greg Walden

I was prepared to use that, now overused, invective:  ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’  This has to do with the recent federal budget deal, and the provision which cuts the cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees’ pay by 1 percentage point a year – until they turn 62.  Oh, I know some of you will say, ‘what’s this got to do with the theme of your blog?’  Well, as most of you know by now, I sometimes wander.

In the way of disclosure, I am a veteran; but I did not retire from the military.  So, I suppose I have a fraternal interest in this budgetary decision, but I do not have any vested monetary interest.  This decision, budgetary deal, seemed so blatantly unfair that every veteran should speak up, contact their congressman or woman; and get this provision reversed.

Anyway, I decided to do some research.  That didn’t change my opinion; but what I found was interesting – the politics that is.  I thought I could completely blame the Democrats for this, but that would be an error.  Politicians are a cunning lot.  They make their money, and sustain their power, in anticipation of public reaction.  It is, as we know, always about them:  Democrat or Republican.

First the facts of the provision, as I now understand it.  The cost-of-living cuts would apply to retired military pensions for those individuals under age 62, and who are not disabled (the degree of disability seems to be a mystery – as far as I can determine).  If for example, the calculated, across-the-board inflation rate was 1.5% per year, as it was recently found to be, veterans under 62 would only receive an increase in their pension of .5%.  Over the course of a veteran’s retirement, this could potentially cost him or her $70 to $80 thousand.

These cuts are unlawful, as far as I’m concerned.  The current cost-of-living provisions were promised benefits to those in the military upon enlistment.  And, the obvious question is why our military guys and gals?  Why not all federal employees?  Why not all of us currently on the receiving end of Social Security, social welfare programs, farm subsidies, etc. making a little sacrifice, if sacrifice is necessary?  Why must our military, once again make all of the sacrifices?  An easy target, I suppose.  Military people are often reminded:  ‘Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.’

Regardless of how the bill’s provision is worded and certain exemptions included, I still feel this is unfair, even unconscionable.  Of all the people designated to have a cut in their pensions, our veterans should be the last.  They and their families were the ones who truly suffered while the rest of us went on with our lives – dare I say fat, dumb and happy.  OK, maybe that is a somewhat dramatic overstatement – most others in our society are not fat, or dumb or happy for that matter – and they are, day to day, working very hard in a productive manner.  I’m sorry.  Yes, I’m still a little angry.

But, here is the interesting part.  When you check out who voted for or against the budget deal, including the cuts for retired veterans’ benefits, I found that the politicians in both parties are smarter than I thought.  In the House, almost all the Republicans voted for the deal, and almost all the Democrats voted against it.  However, in the Senate, almost all the Democrats voted for the budget deal, and almost all the Republicans voted against it.  Why?  On the surface, that doesn’t seem to make sense.

It’s about them, my friends.  Election time is fast approaching.  And, all the politicians are running for cover.  If they can hide in the herd, maybe no one will notice, and they will be back in Washington unscathed for another term.

So who are the Oregon politicians who voted for the budget deal, including cuts in retirement benefits for our veterans?  They are Senator Ron Wyden (D), Senator Jeff Merkley (D), and Representative Greg Walden (R).

I’m still kind of angry, but I am also definitely conflicted.  How about in this coming election, we vote all of them out and start anew.

True Nelson