Letter to the Editor: Cutting the Cost of Living Allowance for military retirees

Dear Editor;

In December 2013, Congress passed and the President signed into law a budget. It passed with overwhelming support in both Houses and by both parties. To save the government 6 billion dollars over the next 10 years, they slashed the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) by 1 percent per year for military retirees younger than 62, including disabled veterans. Now 1 percent doesnt sound like much, but the result in the total loss of income will range between $70,000 and $120,000 by some estimates. Congress claimed that the retired disabled veterans were inadvertently put in the language of the bill, and has since amended the budget eliminating them from suffering these pay cuts. Congress and the President think that cutting this earned benefit to the retired vets is a good idea because those vets are still of working age and therefore dont need the money previously promised to them.

Locally, these are the elected officials that voted yea and passed this budget: Senator Casey, and Representatives Dent, Gerlach, and Pitts. Some of these politicians who voted to take away veterans pay, receive a retirement from Pennsylvania while serving in Congress. Rep. Dent collects more than $16,000 annually for his service when he was a state legislator, and Rep. Pitts raked in more than $90,000 in retirement benefits last year for his previous service as a state legislator. So I guess its alright for a politician to receive a retirement pay, but not someone who put their life on the line for more than 20 years. These scoundrels in Washington compare military duty with civilian jobs. This is not a fair comparison. Most people in the military made far less than their family and friends in civilian life. Most never bought a home because they were constantly transferred from one place to another. Most were not marketable in the civilian world when they retired from the military and had to start a new career from scratch.

Upon first learning of the COLA reduction, I initially felt that if it was for the good of the nation and needed to help reduce our debt, then I would, like the good soldier, bear the burden and take the cut in pay. But when I discovered that the military retirees were the ONLY group being asked to forfeit money, I became outraged. Upon further investigation I discovered that Congress refused to put language in this budget that would prevent illegal immigrants from stealing billions of dollars every year by filing fraudulent income tax returns; that the government gives twice that amount of money to third world nations to help them cope with climate change; and gives billions of dollars, arms and military equipment to countries that hate our guts and have, or may, turn around and use those weapons to kill Americans! Who ever thought that they would actually pass a bill that took money, or anything away from disabled veterans? Men and women wounded in combat! The politicians are now saying that they screwed up and should have not had that language in the bill reducing the disabled veterans pay. But why did they put it in there in the first place? Well they say it was an accident, or that they didnt read the bill before they voted. Well why didnt you read it Congressman?! Will someone explain to me why a young Marine who lost an arm, or both legs, or a soldier with severe brain trauma, or why any combat disabled veteran should ever have a need or want for the rest of their life? But what do the politicians do, they pass a bill making life even harder for those wounded warriors. Despicable!

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Congress and the President have broken a solemn promise. They are in breach of contract. Even though they have now revoked the provision punishing the disabled veterans, those that voted to pass this budget have shown their true colors. We veterans that devoted 20 or more years of our life to this country, committing the best years of our youth to the safety, security, and liberty of this nation have now been betrayed. When we enlisted, we signed a binding contract, but now the politicians ignore that contract. This act will be devastating to recruiting and retention of good people in our military. For the first time in my life I do not recommend that any young person join the military, and it pains me to say that. When we enlisted, we swore a solemn oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. All of us vets gave much sweat, some blood, and some were horribly harmed both physically and mentally. We have never forgotten our oath and commitment, but sadly the politicians have never taken theirs seriously. That small amount of pay that a military retiree receives is in reality a retainers fee in the event the country needs us once again. Most people dont know this, but many military retirees were called back into active service since 9/11. We never forget our oath, nor shirk our duties and responsibilities, and our promise to the American people! What Congress and the President have done to us veterans is much more than a slap in the face.

I really have not seen a whole lot about this in the news, and that bothers me. Perhaps I am mistaken and the American people really dont care what happens to retired veterans. I hear people giving thanks for our service, but that really doesnt mean anything if you dont actually show some support. I dont know what resides in a persons heart, and I can only judge someone by their actions. But if you really care about the retired military veterans, then you need to speak up and be heard by these disgusting politicians in Washington. I plan on assembling retired military veterans and disabled veterans and visit Sen. Casey and Rep. Dent and let them know exactly how we feel about their vote. I hope that every retired military vet and disabled vet reading this will join me. Please dont thank us for our service and sacrifice if you dont really mean it and if you dont intend to remove these corrupt and incompetent politicians from office. If you wont contact and scold these politicians, then please dont thank this veteran for his service.

We were ready, willing and able to protect you, the nation, and all of our liberties. Are you now ready, willing and able to help us?

Abraham Lincoln said, We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

Sincerely,

Craig Kleinsmith, a resident of Hamburg.

Master Sergeant (Retired), U.S. Army