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Lawmakers Write Bills to Fight COLA Drop

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Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are making it clear they intend to put up a fight to stop reduced cost of living adjustment for military retirees under the age of 62.

Just weeks after President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that included language reducing future cost of living adjustments for working age military retirees to 1 percent below the calculated cost-of-living, there are more than a dozen bills in the House and Senate aimed at repealing that provision.

The law has been roundly criticized by veterans groups, military associations, and some lawmakers even though it has been backed by Pentagon leaders looking to reduce personnel spending.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, filed two bills on Dec. 19 aimed at thwarting the changes. One bill, H.R. 3789, would amend Title 10 of the U.S. Code to make certain disabled veterans exempt from the adjustments, while another, H.R. 3790, would simply repeal the budget language.

"I supported the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 because it represented the best opportunity for our divided government to keep its doors open for the next two years while reducing the deficit and bolstering military readiness," Miller said. He explained that the bill provision on military retirement is not something he would back "outside of the context of the budget compromise."

He said his bills would eliminate the COLA reductions for all military retirees, as well as those who are medically retired, receiving Combat Related Special Compensation and/or Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments.

There is support from both parties for restoring full COLAs for all military retirees, regardless of age. While Democrat bills have not picked up much GOP support, Democrats have signed on to Miller's legislation.

His bill to amend Title 10 has 141 co-sponsors, 40 of them Democrat. His repeal legislation has 96 co-sponsors -- 65 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

In contrast, H.R. 3793, the Military Retirement Restoration Act introduced by Rep. Daniel Maffei, D-NY, has 44 co-sponsors, but not a single Republican among them. The same bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, where it picked up 18 Democrat co-sponsors, as well the backing of Independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

A committee staffer told that Miller's bills already were already nearly complete before Maffei introduced his legislation.

One reason the Democrat-backed bills in both House and Senate are not picking up support, however, is that they also include a provision that would offset the revenue lost by repealing the COLA measure by ending the practice of U.S.-managed and controlled companies operating offshore from avoiding paying U.S. taxes.

In a statement released last month as she prepared to file her legislation, Shaheen said achieving the savings "by closing corporate tax loopholes ... a smart, pragmatic fix."

Backers of the measure say closing the tax loopholes would raise more than $6 billion over 10 years.

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