Persistence Pays Off: Begich COLA Amendment Included in New Vet Funding Bill
New Legislation to be Taken Up by the Senate Soon
U.S. Senator Mark Begich, who serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is pushing once again to restore the full cost of living (COLA) increases to veterans’ pensions. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, which is co-sponsored by Begich and reverses COLA cuts for retired veterans under the age of 62, is intended to be taken up for consideration by the Senate.
The cuts, slated to take effect in December 2015, were included in the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act, which passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 67-33 last month.
“I voted for the budget bill because the American people said loud and clear that another government shutdown was unacceptable,” said Begich. “My colleagues and I made a decision: vote for the budget in the 11th hour to help avoid another costly government shutdown, and then immediately get to work to make sure the nation’s financial woes were not paid by the pensions of our honorable military retirees.”
Before the Bipartisan Budget Act even passed the Senate, Begich sponsored S. 1844, the Military Retirement Restoration Act, which would replace the COLA reduction savings by closing a tax loophole for overseas corporations.
Because this bill was not moving fast enough and Senator Begich wanted immediate action for our, he next co-sponsored an amendment to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act.
When the bill did not secure the votes necessary to move forward for amendment consideration, Begich pushed for the amendment to be incorporated into the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, which should soon go to the Senate floor for consideration.
“As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I worked hard to make this a part of the package,” said Begich. “I will not give up on this repeal until we can deliver on the promise of extensive benefits we made to our men and women in uniform when they signed up to defend our country.”
The amendment will reverse the 1 percent reduction to annual cost of living (COLA) increases for military pensions that were included in the 2013 budget bill. The decrease in COLA could impact more than 4,500 retired Alaska veterans if the cuts go into effect in December 2015.