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Senate panel lambasts changes to military pensions

Jan. 28, 2014 - 02:57PM   |  
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WASHINGTON — Senators on Tuesday bashed changes to veterans' pensions that would reduce the cost-of-living adjustments.

The change, part of the budget deal struck late last year, would see the adjustments for veterans under the age of 62 decrease 1 percent annually beginning in 2015. The reduction to the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, has since been repealed for disabled veterans.

"I believe that the COLA reduction is wrong because it targets a single group — military retirees —to help address the budget problems of the federal government as a whole," said Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

He predicted the provision, estimated to save $6 billion, would be repealed.

The chairman's ranking member, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he shared Levin's concerns. Veterans' groups have mobilized as well to defeat the measure.

No military officials were consulted on the change, said Christine Fox, the acting deputy Defense secretary. She urged senators to hold off on the change until a comprehensive review of military compensation, already under way, is issued in February 2015.

Growth in military pay and benefits, she cautioned, threatens to affect the Pentagon's ability to buy modern weapons and train adequately.

Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that any changes to military retirement should be grandfathered, leaving benefits unchanged for those serving.

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