U.S. Senators: Please #KeepYourPromise to Our Military Families
With the proposed Ryan-Murray budget deal before the Senate this week, the National Military Family Association is pleased so many military families are telling their story of service and letting their Senators know how the Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLA) cap on military retired pay will adversely affect them over the course of their retirement. These stories, told via the #KeepYourPromise Twitter campaign and directly to Members of Congress have highlighted the frustration of many retirees, currently-serving members, and their families.
The Senate will vote on the budget deal this week. In visits with The Military Coalition to Senate offices on December 16, our Association staff members were encouraged by expressions of support for eliminating the COLA cap on military retired pay, but we know that achieving this goal will be an up-hill battle. We appreciate the support of Senators who want to strike the provision from the budget bill, even though any change in the Senate will force the budget bill back to the House, which has already left town for the holidays. The fear of a delay in passing a budget, which could result in another government shutdown on January 15, is a big factor in many Senators’ reluctance to amend or vote against the budget bill.
Congressional decisions are spreading the pain to all military people in a way disproportionate to the rest of the Nation. Let's not forget that the other deal announced recently—the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014—also inflicts pay changes on the currently-serving, which will translate to more pain when they retire. Our active duty service members should be getting a 1.8 percent pay raise, but the NDAA provides only a 1 percent raise. And remember, smaller active duty pay raises translate into lower retiree pay when that active duty member—who’s borne the burden of multiple wartime deployments—retires.
The families of our future retirees are getting a double whammy—one punch is the lower pay raise now and the other is the lower retiree COLAs in the future. At least there will be a catch-up for the retirees when they turn 62. There's no catch-up on active duty pay losses. Our Members of Congress must understand the effects these deals AND continued sequestration are having on all military people.
The National Military Family Association firmly believes the changes in pay and retirement included in the budget and NDAA deals should not have been done piecemeal by Congress without waiting for the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission that Congress itself established. The budget deal breaks the promise included in the language creating the commission, that retirement changes would not affect currently serving members or current retirees. It also provides no protection for medically-retired wounded warriors.
What can military families do? They can and must contact the Senators from the state where they vote. Here’s how: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. They must tell their military family story and how this back-door budget deal will affect their finances now and over the next several years. They must remind their Senators that every dollar of retirement pay counts, especially to our medically-retired wounded warriors and our non-commissioned officers.
We hope military families will ask their Members of Congress to understand that budgets should not be balanced on the backs of those who have already given so much to our Nation. Military families understand the importance of the budget bill to the Department of Defense and other federal programs, but ask Congress to focus on the effects of their actions on the entire life cycle of service—from currently serving to retired. We are still a Nation at war and many of those “working age” retirees who will be affected by the lower COLAs carry the legacy of service in time of war.
And, on another note, with these hits to military families' wallets, commissary savings become even more important! We continue to urge Members of Congress to convey that the Department of Defense preserve the commissary system and the savings it provides.
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Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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