OUR OPINION: Benefits restoration was right by veterans

Military retirees everywhere can thank Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker for their work and votes leading restoration of a retirement benefit level in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that otherwise would have reduced a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for the retirement pay of members of the armed services.

The bill will protect military retirement from reductions that would have affected military personnel under age 62 starting Dec. 1, 2015.

The restoration corrects part of the Murray-Ryan budget deal that passed in late 2013 and was opposed by Wicker and Cochran, though both immediately started efforts to restore the reduction without harming other parts of the bill.

Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, voted for House-passed legislation to repeal a provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that reduced the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The bill will protect military retirement COLAs from reductions that would have affected military personnel under age 62 starting Dec. 1, 2015.

“This legislation corrects a misstep. The men and women of our Armed Forces should not bear the brunt of our efforts to take control of the national debt,” Cochran said late last week.

The bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday fully offsets the $6.8 billion cost of restoring the benefits by extending the 2011 Budget Control Act sequester policy on mandatory spending to 2024.

Wicker, who strongly opposed the COLA reduction, is a a member of the Senate Budget and Armed Services committees, and he voted to approve a bill that would restore full cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for current and future military retirees. It pays for the plan by extending sequestration budget caps on mandatory spending for an additional year into 2024.

Wicker was the first senator to voice concerns about the negotiated Murray-Ryan budget proposal because of the cuts to military retirement benefits.

“This bipartisan bill is a win for veterans and taxpayers. It repeals the cuts made to the pensions of at least 27,000 military retirees in Mississippi and protects the budget savings achieved by the latest budget deal,” Wicker said.

Press services reported that the rollback of the military pension cuts would have stripped the average military enlisted person of roughly $69,000 in lifetime retirement benefits.

Restoration was the right move because eligibility already has been determined and promises made.