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Congressman Gus Bilirakis

Representing the 12th District of Florida

Working for ALL of our Heroes

December 19, 2013
Bilirakis Blog

As your Representative in Congress, I believe that I have a solemn duty to honor and serve those that protect and have protected our freedoms and liberties.  As Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I constantly find myself in awe of the sacrifices and efforts that have been made on behalf of our great country by the men and women who have worn the uniform of our Armed Services. 

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, which made a one percent change to the Cost of Living Adjustment for pensions of military retirees under the age of 62.  Because the cost per service member has risen 41 percent since 2001, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that defense spending for military retirement and survivors’ benefits will rise another 30 percent over the next decade,[1] the intent of these provisions was to address the rising personnel costs that the Department of Defense is tasked to pay for. 

To be clear, any compensation a veteran receives for service-related disabilities – including VA disability compensation, combat-related special compensation, and access to VA medical benefits – is unaffected by the Act.  The Act does not affect any benefits provided to veterans in compensation for disabilities suffered as a result of their service. 

One of the most critical functions of our government is to look after our service members, both past and present.  The sequester relief that was provided by the Act is a first step towards reinstating the United States’ military readiness.  The sequester’s indiscriminate nature was a flawed policy that hurts the readiness of our men and women that are currently serving in harm’s way.

It is important to provide the Defense Department with the flexibility it needs to maintain the greatest military in the world.  However, this must not be done on the backs of those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Today, I introduced legislation that will repeal all of the adjustments to the working age military retiree COLA that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act, ensuring that all military retirees receive a full COLA.  As a fiscal conservative, I believe it is important for our budget to put our nation back on a responsible fiscal and economic path.  Therefore, I believe that offsets for this must be found to replace the projected savings in the Act.  My legislation directs the Defense Department to find $6.2 billion in savings from money that Congress has given it in the past, but that the Pentagon has not spent or is losing to wasteful programs.

I have also co-sponsored three other pieces of legislation that provide additional solutions to this problem, including bills that:

  • repeal the COLA adjustments in full;
  • seek to add exemptions from the adjustments for disabled retirees, recipients of Combat Related Specialty Compensation and Concurrent Receipt Pay, and surviving spouses who are in receipt of payments under the Survivor Benefit Program;
  • repeal the COLA adjustments in full and offset the costs of repeal by requiring that Social Security Numbers be provided for dependents of those who claim the child tax credit on their income taxes.

I will continue to work with my House colleagues and not rest until this issue is resolved before the policies of the Act go into effect in 2015.  Our heroes deserve no less.