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Military retirees outraged Congress voting to trim pensions

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Military retirees are outraged over a provision in the two-year budget deal working its way through Congress that would, if passed, cut the one percent cost of living raises of non-disabled retirees under 62 years of age, CNN Money reported Thursday.

A coalition of some 27 groups wrote President Obama and congressional leaders expressing their "strong objection" and "grave concern" over the deal.

The problem, CNN Money explained, is that most military retirees are much younger than private sector retirees.

"They enlist in their 20's and retire in their 40's. Very few stay on till they are 62 -- those who may be lucky enough to escape major injuries at war, or rose to higher echelons in the military system," Jennifer Liberto wrote.

Over the course of 20 years, that cut would compound into a 20 percent decrease in retirement benefits.

The Military Officers Association of America said the cut would cost a retired Army Sergeant First Class about $3,700 per year. Over 20 years, the total loss could balloon to over $80,000.

"While portrayed as a minor change, a 20% reduction in retired pay and survivor benefit values is a massive cut in military career benefits," the groups -- which include the Air Force Sergeants Association, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Marine Corps League -- said in their letter.

"It's not fair at all. I spent a 30 year career in the military. I clearly understood what the (cost of living increases) would be," said Army Col. Michael Barron, who retired four years ago after serving 30 years.

"This is the worst kind of example of a shady, backroom deal," the Iraq War veteran added.

"The war has been very hard on our family," said Rebekah Sanderlin, a military spouse whose husband is two years shy of retiring after 20 years. "We'd like to stay in, but it seems stupid to give more time to a government that goes back on their word."

Military groups also called the cut unfair, since it affects those who have already served.

"To tax the very men and women who have sacrificed and served more than others is simply a foul," they said in their letter.

Lawmakers are concerned about the rising cost of military benefits, CNN Money added, saying the Pentagon spent $52.4 billion on 2.3 million military retirees and survivors in 2012 alone. That amount is expected to rise.

"House budget chief Rep. Paul Ryan's website states that military retirement 'provides an exceptionally generous benefit, often providing 40 years of pension payments in return for 20 years of service,' as it explains why benefits should be trimmed," Liberto said.

Military groups understand the need to control costs, but say it should be done through the normal legislative process that give time to review and "assess any recommendations that could significantly impact retention and readiness."

But the groups say they were blindsided by the cut, and feel betrayed.

The budget deal, worked out by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has already passed the House with an overwhelming 332-94 vote and is on its way to the Senate.



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