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The omnibus bill voted on in the House last night shows Congresses callous disregard for veterans.  The bill did not fix the Cost Of Living Rollback which was tucked in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013 that penalizes retired veterans below the age of 62.  One caveat: the omnibus bill does restore the full COLA for medically retired vets.  This is good but does not undo any of the damage the COLA cuts will have on veterans after January 1, 2016, which is the date the law takes effect.

Veterans, active duty and many in the public pressed Congress loudly to repeal the COLA cut for all veteran retirees.  Hundreds of thousands of letters, emails, tweets, etc...  pleading Congress to change the law fell on deaf ears.  

Congress has proven over the years they do not work for you.  He who has the most money gets a say and gets to change the laws.  That is how Congress works.  They want your vote but when it comes down to it, if you are not showing them a wad of cash, forget it.  Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) made the case on why Congress shafted military pensioners on Hew Hewitt radio show Jan 15:  only 17% of active duty make it to retirement.  Translation: it is OK to take money away from this small group and deliver their earned benefits to Pentagon hardware programs.  

The irony of it is many in Congress vowed to fix the screw up once the BBA was announced in Dec 2013 and would do it in the next legislation.  But when it came time to show their colors the House voted 359-67 in favor of passing the omnibus bill without fully repealing the COLA rollback.  The vote tally clearly shows Congress is not interested in restoring the break in faith with veterans.  

Medical Malingering

You can tell Congress has not learned much in the rush to push through laws without studying their potential impact.  There is a long history of messed up policies that proved too damaging only to have Congress roll them back later.  When I was active duty I saw several cases of medical malingering by other Servicemembers.  What is medical malingering you ask?  It is when someone who is actually healthy feigns serious illness in order their case be entered in their medical records.  Once the medical fraud (because that is what it is) is entered into their record, they can claim the fraud, I mean medical condition on their Veterans Administration (VA) medical review record.  The VA then adjudicates the findings, and if it is found to be valid, they award a disability rating.  The higher the disability rating the lower the federal tax payment the individual will have to pay to Uncle Sam.

I hope I am wrong but what Congress is encouraging is more medical malingering down the road with this partial COLA rollback.  This is just wrong policy and encourages bad behavior.

Bad Behaviors Resulting From Bad Legislation

You are probably thinking there is no way a twist in an incentive for active duty personnel will change behaviors for the bad.  Think again.  

We are now being told four star generals will be paid more in retirement than when they were on active duty and, get ready.... they are exempt from the COLA rollback which affects the rest of the military.  Congress changed the law back in 2007 in order to retain top talent to execute the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

As a result of Congresses shortsightedness, we have four star generals now proclaiming publicly, without evidence, the military retirement and compensation system is swamping their budgets.  All publicly available documents prove that is not the case.  Military compensation and retirement budgets have remained relatively steady over the past ten years as shown by Office of Budget Management documents. On hardware, generals see things differently.  As you might expect, the generals are mum on the $411 billion cost over-runs on numerous weapon systems.  

What the generals fully understand is Congress is trimming the Pentagon budget and one painless way for them (not for us!) to do it is to cut back on payments into the Military Retirement Trust Fund and to get Congress to earmark the savings from retirement accounts back into hardware.  Veterans cringe at what Congress is cooking up down the pipe.  

You see, because the generals are not affected by changes to the recent COLA cuts so now they can mislead, in bad faith, the public into believing military retirement costs are out of control.  If they were affected by the cut, it is a safe bet they be would stating things a bit differently.  My guess is the generals are including everything on their personnel expense ledger.  For example, if a soldier gets a shoeshine for a discount, I am guessing the savings is considered an expense.  

Senates Turn To Show Faith

Since Congress has recently sprung bills for a vote with short notice it is unlikely change will come for the military pensioners.  The millionaire Congressmen who are managing the budget process know there is not much time for their colleagues to read the massive bills -- and they also know there is not much chance of change in the Senate because that will delay the implementation and possible forcing another continuing resolution.  Lord help us.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Congress Is All Show & No Action For Vets (14+ / 0-)

    Despite all the showboating in Congress, when it comes down to it, money is what talks.  Veterans dont have the money like Goldman Sachs to buy lobbyists to buy votes.  

    The ultimate goal for many in Congress and in the Pentagon is to turn the Military Retirement Trust Fund over to Wall Street and to have soldiers pay for their own retirement.  That is why the House voted in such huge numbers in favor of fixing the COLA cut for medically retired veterans but left the cut in tact for the rest of the veterans 62yrs old and below.  For Congress, it is a first step toward their goals.

  •  All those shiny toys... (5+ / 0-)

    ...and if word gets out about this, nobody will enlist to make them work for the "poor" brass.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 05:23:06 AM PST

    •  Can you say DRAFT? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, dannyboy1

      Is that why we see so little support on the left? Do you think that they prefer these cuts stay so that it hurts morale and makes people second guess staying in for 20?

      •  No draft, no how... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that would just encourage them to get into more useless wars!

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 05:52:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When they can no longer keep up retention rates (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koosah, JeffW, snoopydawg

          on their Wal-Mic-Donald's wages and benefits, that is what will happen.

          And FYI--We vets warn young people away from the service during times like this especially. Since the pay off isn't what it should be.

          Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

          by GreenMother on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 06:10:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Well, that's what milfams are saying is going (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koosah, JeffW, snoopydawg

          to happen.

          People are pissed and are saying they won't recommend military service to anyone after this.

        •  I don't agree. (0+ / 0-)

          First, the volunteer military makes it easy for those who like sending others to war.  After all, nobody is in the military who doesn't want to be, right?  I have seen many politicians use that tack and it's nauseating.

          Second, the draft makes people much more aware of their responsibilities to speak up when they don't approve of a particular war -- it has the potential to hit much closer to home.

          My idea of a draft is not solely for the military, but for public service.  We should all feel invested in our country, and public service increases that awareness.

    •  half of DoD budget goes to compensation (0+ / 0-)

      another 10% goes to health care (not included Veterans Affairs...that is a stand alone budget)

      DoD spending is second only to Social Security.

      L'enfer, c'est les autres....Jean-Paul Sartre

      by Keith930 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 06:14:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Let me tackle these one at a time. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koosah, JeffW

        Health care costs are crazy for the DoD. However, they're crazy across the US. If we instituted single payer, we could bring down those costs. If we opened up a public option, via Tricare for example, we could bring down costs. But until the nation figures out how to control health care costs, the DoD won't.

        As to cutting COLA on retirement pay - it saves only $6 billion over 10 years. The DoD spends $1B a year on Drug and Counter Drug Actions... where we have an entire agency that should be doing that, the DEA. Over 10 years, that would be $10B in savings.

        The R&D budget that just passed the House - over $62.5B just this year alone. Seriously, we an keep promises to those who have already served but we can still waste money on contractors that overcharge our government.

  •  Thanks for the update. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, koosah, Avilyn

    I'll be on this morning at 10:15EST. Trying to explain why we need civilian support to restore full COLA to military pensions.

  •  Bumper Sticker Patriots (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, koosah

    That's what we call most of Congress and the House and a lot of America too.

    They don't know diddley squat about what veterans go through or how retirement works or doesn't work, and they ignore the endless attempts and successes by the banking industry to bilk us out of what little cash we have.

    It's easy to put a magnetic yellow ribbon on your vehicle.

    It's a lot harder and less glamorous to help out living military people now, with their VA benefits or retirement issues. That's why they let the banks rip us off in between omnibus spending cut bills.

    Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

    by GreenMother on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 06:09:09 AM PST

  •  Unfortunately, there is a large segment of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    public who don't "get it" about any kind of government pension system.  They don't understand that those pension guarantees came in exchange for some other expensive cost to the taxpayers like wages, or insurance coverage.  All they know is that in their own private-sector jobs, pension funds were raided and looted a long time ago and they resent it when they see ANY pension system for government employees--even veterans who risked their lives.  They see nothing wrong with throwing vets into the Wall Street system because that's what happened to them.  

    Ugh.  What those same people don't "get" is that in the private sector, in theory, employers would compete for workers by offering better retirement account (401K and IRA) matches and stuff like that.  That can't happen in the military, obviously.  

    And we have also had multiple generations of soldiers and sailors who are ingrained with the notion that if you just stick it out with a military career you can at least count on a steady retirement.  Those poverty wages and dangerous assignments will be worth it someday, because it always has been.  

    If they really do this and eventually throw the veterans to Wall Street, my fear is that it will take too long for the reaction to happen.  It would be sweet, sweet justice if they had a steep decline in enlistments IMMEDIATELY, but I fear that won't happen.  People have been too conditioned to think that military retirement agreement is just there.  And what will new enlistments do about it anyway?  They can't go across the street and sign up in a different Navy.  

    Good diary, callawar!  Keep on top of this and please come back with updates!        

    "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock." Attributed to T. Jefferson

    by koosah on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 06:23:43 AM PST

    •  It's true and I think it's why Congress targets (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      pensions so often. It's horrible that they also cut Federal Civilian Pensions as well but at least they grandfathered those cuts so that the only people affected are going to be new hires. Those people at least have an honest choice to make.

      My husband has already served. We sat down at the 10yr and 15yr point and discussed the pros and cons of staying in. If Congress can just change our pensions whenever they like, why should we trust them to pay pensions at all? That social contract is so important and I actually believe folks on the left get that more than folks on the right but the majority of voices arguing to rescind these cuts come from the right. It is so bizarre.

    •  Cut Cut Cut! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, koosah

      Notice now Congress is ready to move forward and ignore vet pleas.  They've loaded the omnibus bill up with pork for the home district.

  •  Lesson not learned (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, will be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

    - George Washington

    "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." Levon Helm

    by BOHICA on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 07:22:11 AM PST

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