Paralyzed Veterans of America is disappointed in the recent bipartisan budget deal in Congress that forces military service members and their families to shoulder the burden for deficit reduction.
The bill, which now awaits President Obama’s signature, cuts annual cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees under the age of 62 by one percentage point less than inflation. The Congressional Budget Office earlier this week concluded that the COLA rate decrease would also apply to retirement benefits for service members who are medically retired from military service under Chapter 61 of Title 10.
“Paralyzed Veterans of America is disappointed that Congress is once again putting the burden for deficit reduction on the backs of service members, veterans and their families,” said Carl Blake, national legislative director for Paralyzed Veterans of America.
It was only in the past couple of days that members of Congress had learned from CBO that the proposal would apply to Chapter 61 disabled retirees, Blake said. According to congressional staff members, the intention was to apply the change only to military service members who retire after 20 years of service but are still of working age and ability.
Service members can be eligible for early Chapter 61 retirement if it is determined that, due to physical disability, he or she is deemed by a Department of Defense medical evaluation board to no longer be fit for duty. A service member must hold a disability rating of 30 percent or more in order to be eligible for Chapter 61 retirement.
While the bill as it stands now would apply the 1 percent cut to COLAs for Chapter 61 disabled military retirees, there likely will be some legislative action in the second session of the 113th Congress to repeal the provision at least for these medical retirees, Blake said.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., on Wednesday introduced two pieces of legislation, one that would eliminate the COLA reduction for all retirees, and another that would eliminate it only for veterans who are medically retired, receiving combat-related special compensation and/or concurrent retirement and disability payments.
Blake emphasized that no benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs – to include disability compensation, pension or dependency and indemnity compensation – would be impacted by the change.
“There has been a great deal of misinformation about the impact of the budget agreement on veterans’ benefits,” Blake said. “The press continues to report this provision of the agreement as though it impacts veterans because current military retirees, whether for longevity or disability, are also veterans. However, the only benefits impacted by this proposal are directly administered by the Department of Defense.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America’s efforts on Capitol Hill
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.