New Budget Deal Shifts Burden of Failure to Vets

Perhaps you’ve heard, and then again perhaps you haven’t heard about the new “bipartisan” spending bill that recently passed the House of Representatives and is now headed to the Senate for their approval.  Many out there are reporting this bill as a bipartisan victory, an example of how Congress can still cooperate to get things done.  Others are hailing the bill for its extensiveness as it provides for top-line spending for the next two years; all but assuring there will not be another shutdown during that time.  Some are heralding the bill as a win because it rolls back some of the spending cuts that went into effect under the so-called “sequestration”.  However there are a great many people across America and even in Congress, particularly the Senate, who are unhappy with this bill.  The reason people are so unhappy is because although this may seem like a Congressional victory, it comes a cost.

First, the good news.  The bill does guarantee spending on primary items such as federal salaries (FBI, Department of Justice, etc…) and defense spending (entitlement items such as Social Security are covered under a separate appropriation) for the next two years which would prevent a repeat of the government shutdown we recently experienced.  It does roll back some of the unpopular sequestration spending cuts, particularly in the areas of defense, to the tune of about $63 billion. And it does include some small (very small) spending reductions that will occur over the next decade.  Most these things are considered by mostly everyone to be “good”, and are actually important achievements.

Now the bad news.  The biggest problem with this bill is the $63 billion in spending increases created by the sequestration rollback.  This money has to come from somewhere, and it does.  The bill raises the money needed through a variety of cuts to benefits of federal and military personnel, and through fee increases placed on the TSA and Customs Bureau.  $6 billion is being raised by increasing the amount of money federal employees contribute to their retirement by 1.3%; however this only affects new hires as current employees will be grandfathered in under the current amount.  $19.4 billion is being raised by increasing usage fees on the Transportation Security Administration and on the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.  These fees will eventually be pushed off onto the people and we will end up paying more for the services we received from these two agencies.  $8 billion is being raised by increasing the cost of premiums paid to the government by private companies for federal insurance for their employee pension funds.  This may negatively affect private pensions as the cost of providing employee pensions will increase under this bill.

The worst offense comes in the form of the $6 billion being slashed from military retirement pensions over the next 10 years through a reduction in the cost of living allowance paid to military retirees.  The cut affects current retirees already drawing a pension who are under the age of 62, and will affect all future military retirees.  Cost of living allowance (COLA) is extremely important to many military retirees who live entirely on their pensions.  COLA is paid to retirees in order to offset the ever increasing cost of living in America.  When their COLA payments are reduced, life becomes much more difficult as most military pensions are not exactly “lavish”.

What angers me the most about this is that our “Government” has the audacity to burden our Veterans with their mistakes.  Life for Military members is extremely difficult.  It’s a life of constant uprooting, deployments, missed birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries.  Not to mention the physical elements and danger.  Many Soldiers that make it to retirement age are completely exhausted due to years of physical abuse.  Exactly how do our politicians think it is fair to take from those who have already given so much in order to make up for their inability to do something as simple as managing their budget?  Part of the job of Congress, in fact one of its utmost responsibilities, is to properly manage the funds of the United States.  I ask you how is it justified taking from those who have already done their jobs to the fullest to make up for those who have failed to do theirs?

J.S. Franklin is a Constitutionalist and does not subscribe to any particular political party. He served nearly a decade in the United States Army and has degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice with a focus on Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism.
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