A bipartisan budget deal that has passed the House is facing some Republican opposition because it penalizes members of the military while protecting civilian federal employees, according to three GOP senators.
A letter sent to their Senate colleagues by Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi said the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 “unfairly targets” working-age military retirees.
The proposed budget calls for a 1 percent reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working age military retirees, according to The Washington Post.
The cost-of-living reduction plan would start in December 2015.
The budget “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country,” argue Ayotte, Graham and Wicker, all of whom sit on the Senate Committee on Armed Forces.
The budget agreement, which would save $6 billion over 10 years, impacts military members’ retirement, but protects all civilian federal employees hired before Jan. 1, 2014, from an increase in their contribution rate to the Federal Employees Retirement System, according to a news release published on Wicker’s website.
“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,'” the letter continues.
A 42-year-old sergeant first class retiree who served 20 years would lose approximately $72,000, according to the senators’ calculations.
Ayotte, Graham and Wicker argue that future military retirees should receive equal treatment as current federal employees, who are grandfathered in and thus protected in the budget.
“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,” they write, underscoring that they are willing to work to figure out how to offset the $6 billion provision.
The Air Force Times reports that GOP Sen. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who crafted the bill with Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, defends the provision, saying, “it is only fair that hardworking taxpayers, who pay for the benefits that our federal employees receive, be treated fairly as well.”
The budget deal includes $85 billion in fee hikes and other deficit reduction measures, along with increases in airline passenger fees, resulting in a net deficit reduction of $23 billion over 10 years, according to Fox News.
Passing the budget as it reads currently could result in “a mass exodus of mid-career enlisted and officers because they no longer feel welcome or in control of their military careers,” VFW National Commander William Thien told The Washington Post.