Many veterans were relieved this morning after hearing that Washington lawmakers had just approved a bill restoring major cuts made to veteran benefits. The original cuts, passed in December’s budget, cut about $6 billion in retirement benefits to American veterans, largely in COLA, or cost of living allowance.
Congressman Blake Farenthold, in explanation of the reversal, said that, “We made them a promise. We should keep that promise. We shouldn’t ask them to sacrifice anymore,” a sentiment many congresspeople echoed this week. However, most veterans have been less than impressed, especially considering that many representatives, like Farenthood, had voted to pass the budget in the first place.
Although the legislation has been approved by Congress, to fully pass, it requires the president’s signature. Other advocates point out that, not only does it affect veterans right now, but COLA can be an important part of encouraging younger citizens to join the military in the first place. The cost of living allowance, which kicks in after military retirement, and provides up until the individual can collect on social security, was promised to the majority of now retirees when they enlisted.
Having COLA can make a big difference in quality of life for veterans, who often face more difficulty than civilians in getting hired, and frequently have to deal with disabilities resulting from their deployments.
Right now, there are over 20 million veterans in the U.S., and about 15% of veterans are currently homeless. Eliminating or reducing cost of living allowances can make it very difficult for veterans already struggling to make ends meet. Congress’s reversal was wise, but their decision to make cuts to benefits in the first place was insulting to those who have served and sacrificed.