A bill to roll back cuts to cost of living adjustments (COLA) payments to veterans under the age of 62 cleared a major hurdle today as the Senate approved U.S. Senator Mark Begich's Bill to Repeal Section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 by a vote of 94-0.
Begich, who serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has been pushing to restore the full COLA payments for several weeks. Today's legislation, Bill to Repeal Section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Sens. Begich, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Pryor (D-AR)and Kay Hagan (D-NC), calls for total repeal of the military retirement cuts included in last month's budget.
"We need to keep our promises to our veterans--no exceptions," said Begich. "These brave men and women have earned these benefits through their sacrifice to our country. I am proud that the Senate voted to move forward on honoring our commitment to these veterans and their families today."
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. 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, 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.
"As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I worked hard to move this legislation forward," 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 bill to reverse the 1 percent reduction to annual COLA increases for military pensions, could impact more than 4,500 retired Alaska veterans if the cuts go into effect in December 2015. Today's vote allows the bill to be fully debated by the Senate later this week.