Thousands of veterans could lose pensions under new budget deal
POSTED: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 11:51pm
UPDATED: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 12:37am
Congress passed a two year budget deal Wednesday that would avoid another government shutdown and automatic spending cuts.
But the deal includes cuts to cost of living adjustments for military retiree pensions. Hundreds of soldiers in El Paso would be impacted.
"And you wonder why we were targeted when there are other people that should have been targeted first,” said Ralph Sanchez, who served 23 years in the United States Army.
Sanchez has served several tours in Germany, Vietnam, and Korea. Now he is retired.
"It takes a while to get there, believe me," Sanchez joked.
Like most veterans, Ralph’s livelihood depends on the money he receives for his years of service.
So a one percent decrease in veterans' cost of living adjustment pensions could be costly - and that's exactly what happened in yesterday's budget deal approved by the Senate.
On Thursday U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke cosponsored three bills that would save military personnel from losing more than six billion dollars in pensions, money they’ve earned.
"The 1% cut in the cost of living adjustment for these military retirees may not sound like a lot to people,” said O’Rourk. “But when you look at it over the course of someone's retirement, it can add up to thousand or tens of thousands of dollars that they are now going to do without."
The first bill O’Rourk introduced would strike out the section of the budget agreement that calls for a 1% cost of living adjustment reeducation for military retirees under 62. The second bill, says veterans who receive certain benefits would be exempt from the reductions.
Representative O'Rourke said the last bill would find other funding revenues to replace the pension cuts by reforming tax laws that allow corporations from using tax havens in other countries and avoid paying their share.
The current cuts to cost of living adjustments for military retirement won't affect ralph yet. He is out of the group that will face the one percent decrease.
But he says veterans all across the board are worried about what could be cut next, and whether or not this is a trend.
"You know, you go to the VA hospital and you can't help but over hear the shady conversations about among the people,” said O’Rourke. “They don't know what is going to come next."
Ralph says he is 80% disabled and that he and other vets have already paid their dues.
"Myself and other brother veterans, sister veterans, we have all paid the price and they shouldn't take any of that price out of our pocket," he said.
The cost of living adjustment changes do not go into effect until December 2015. Representative O'Rourke says he is confident the bills will be passed into law.