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Letter to U.S. Senators - Ayotte, Graham, Wicker Urge Colleagues to Protect Military Retirees From Disproportionate Cuts

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), members of the Senate Armed Services and Budget Committees, today urged their Senate colleagues to find alternative savings to replace a provision in the budget agreement that cuts retirement benefits for current and future military retirees by approximately $6 billion.

In a letter sent today to all Senators, Ayotte, Graham, and Wicker urged Republican and Democratic colleagues to work together to identify a $6.3 billion offset to replace the troubling provision - adding that they were prepared to support the budget agreement if the provision is replaced with acceptable alternative savings.

"While we appreciate the hard work of Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray, as it is currently written, we cannot support the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 due to the legislation's provision that disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country," they wrote. "Although the legislation is far from perfect and does not address the long-term drivers of our debt, if the 'pay for' is changed, we are prepared to support it to provide budgetary certainty and sequestration relief for our nation's critical defense programs."

While the budget agreement includes cuts to retirement benefits for current and future military retirees, all current civilian federal employees are protected from an increase in the contribution rate for the Federal Employees Retirement System - the increase would only apply to new federal employees hired after January 1, 2014. The Senators said it was unacceptable to ask our men and women in uniform - including those who are currently serving - to take a disproportionate cut in retirement benefits.

On Wednesday, the Military Coalition - which represents more than 5.5 million current and former service members and their families and survivors - expressed strong opposition to the budget agreement, saying that it "seeks to penalize current and future military members who have served our nation for over twenty years." The Coalition is comprised of more than 30 military and veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America, and the National Guard Association of the United States.

AYOTTE-GRAHAM-WICKER LETTER TO SENATE COLLEAGUES:

Dear Colleagues,

As members of the Senate Armed Services and Budget Committees, we are eager to support a budget deal that provides much-needed fiscal certainty, offers sequestration relief, and restores military readiness. While we appreciate the hard work of Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray, as it is currently written, we cannot support the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 due to the legislation's provision that disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country. Although the legislation is far from perfect and does not address the long-term drivers of our debt, if the 'pay for' is changed, we are prepared to support it to provide budgetary certainty and sequestration relief for our nation's critical defense programs.

As you know, in order to achieve approximately $6.3 billion in savings, the legislation currently includes a provision that requires a one percent reduction in cost of living benefits for many military retirees under age 62. As a matter of principle, we do not believe it is right to ask our veterans to sacrifice again for our country when we have not had the courage to address the primary long-term drivers of our debt. To cite one example, under this provision, a 42 year old Sergeant First Class retiree-who has served our country for two decades and most likely deployed multiple times to war-would lose approximately $72,000.

Under the proposal, the contribution rate for the Federal Employees Retirement System for new federal employees hired after January 1, 2014, is increased, but all current federal employees are grandfathered and protected from the increase in contributions. Unfortunately, our current and future military retirees were not provided with similar protections that current civilian federal employees are receiving under this act.

If budgets and legislation reflect our nation's priorities, what would it say about us if we pass a bill that turns to our veterans and says "thank you for deploying to war and enduring the hardships of military life-but we are going to need you to sacrifice again and give back $72,000 of the retirement you have earned."

That is unacceptable and we cannot support legislation that sends such a message to our current military retirees and future retirees currently protecting our country and serving in harm's way in Afghanistan and around the world.

We stand ready to work expeditiously with our colleagues in a bipartisan manner to identify an alternative $6.3 billion offset to replace this troubling provision.


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