Congress Skips Town Without Taking Care of Veterans

Congress Skips Town Without Taking Care of Veterans

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Congress Skips Town Without Taking Care of Veterans

Budget Agreement Hits Military Retirees, While Congress Fails to “Finish the Four” and Pass Other Key Legislation 

WASHINGTON, DC (December 19, 2013) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today demanded Congress return in January and meet its obligation to veterans by undoing the budget agreement’s damage to military retirees and by taking overdue action on four critical pieces of legislation supported by post-9/11 veterans. Veterans and military groups – including IAVA, the Military Officers Association of America, the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars – have slammed a key component of the Congressional budget agreement, which would reduce the annual cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees and survivors, leading to a 20 percent cut to retirement benefits over the course of their lives. 

And while IAVA supports provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – which the Senate is expected to pass tonight – IAVA is disappointed that Congress failed to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act and three other key legislative priorities. IAVA has been urging Congress to “Finish The Four” – 1) Fully funding the VA in advance; 2) Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act to combat military sexual assault; 3) Change in-state tuition for all veterans using the GI Bill; and 4) Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

“Veterans were not immune to the historic level of Congressional dysfunction during 2013,” said IAVA CEO and founder Paul Rieckhoff. “Worse than doing nothing, Congress had a negative impact on vets and military families by passing the budget agreement. For their 2014 New Year’s Resolution, Congress must return and start the year by taking care of vets. In January, Congress must support vets by Finishing the Four.”

IAVA vowed to continue to fight the budget agreement impact on military retirees into 2014. Members of Congress from both parties have vowed to protect military retirees. Even one of the lead budget agreement negotiators, Senator Patty Murray, expressed openness to reconsidering the pension cut. 

Said Rieckhoff, “We need strong leadership on this issue. Senator Murray must listen to the opposition of the veterans community and reverse these cuts. Congressman Ryan must respond to the voices of the veterans community and take action against these cuts. And we still must hear from President Obama on this issue.”

Thousands of IAVA members have signed a petition calling for Congress to block the changes to military retirement: One IAVA member, a 20-year Air Force veteran, blogged at about the budget agreement’s impact on him and his family:

“As I finish out my 20 year career, the last thing I expected was to find out the government is now going to penalize my cost of living adjustment on my retirement pay for the next 22 years,” wrote Master Sergeant Brandon Bennett. 

The NDAA, which passed the Senate today and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama, includes a number of provisions supported by IAVA, including:

Some reforms to combat military sexual assault

Expanded suicide prevention measures for members of the reserve components

Increased protections for service members and dependents from predatory for-profit schools

A requirement that DOD make its health records system interoperable with the VA’s system by the end of 2016

More help for service members in translating military training and skills into civilian certifications and licenses. 

Yet, the bill failed to include the Military Justice Improvement Act, which is essential to protecting survivors of military sexual assault, as well as strengthening the health and well being of the military. The bill would put decisions of whether to move cases involving serious crimes to a court martial in the hands of experienced military prosecutors, establishing a more impartial justice system that will balance aggressive prosecution with the rights of the accused. IAVA is urging Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act as a stand-alone measure in January. IAVA is also urging Congress to pass three additional measures when it returns: 

Fully fund the VA in advance – HR 813 and S 932, cosponsored by Congressman Miller (R-FL), Rep Michaud (D-ME), Senator Begich (D-AK) and Senator Boozman (R-AK). These bills would fully fund the entire VA one year in advance. This means that when Congress is late with the budget (or shuts down the government) the VA already has its next year’s budget on the books. The bill also allows the VA to plan ahead for the modernization efforts currently underway. 

Charge in-state tuition for all veterans using GI Bill – HR 357 and S 944, cosponsored by Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME), Senator John Boozman (R-AK), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). These bills would require all schools that accept GI Bill dollars to charge the in-state tuition rate for veterans using the GI Bill. This closes a loophole where vets who – due to their military service – aren’t legal residents of any state, get stuck with a bill for the education that the GI Bill was supposed to cover.

Ratify The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is a treaty that would establish international standards based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Based on America’s leadership in establishing these standards, it will ensure that Americans with disabilities will encounter better accessibility when traveling abroad. This treaty is supported by former Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.


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