Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, defended controversial cuts to military retirement pay in the budget deal, saying that the need for military compensation reform is “undeniable.”
“For me, there’s simply no choice between responsible reforms of military compensation and making what our military leadership has called ‘disproportionate cuts to military readiness and modernization,’ ” Mr. Ryan wrote on a USA Today oped. “Every time we kick the can down the road, we put our troops’ combat readiness at risk. This agreement put forward one reform option, and I invite others to do the same.”
The two-year budget deal that passed Congress last week increases spending now in exchange for savings later and reduces the deficit by $23 billion over 10 years. The deal, authored by Mr. Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, also cuts the cost-of-living adjustment to one percent below the consumer price index for military retirees younger than 62 and goes into effect in 2015.
While Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said that all military service leaders support the bill because of the $63 billion in sequestration relief it provides, veterans groups demanded last week that President Obama veto the budget bill. A White House petition to veto the budget bill has more than 18,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
“Military retirees have risked their lives, sacrificed normal family life, and given their prime earning years to defend this nation,” the We the People petition says. “One of the primary motivators for military members to spend an entire career in the military is the promise of a retirement benefit that cannot be made worthless by inflation. The Ryan/Murray proposal breaks that promise.”
Last week, the White House gave no indication that the president would not sign the bill into law.
Military groups have claimed that these cuts balance the budget on the backs of those who have risked their lives for the country, but Mr. Ryan wrote that these much-needed reforms benefit service members by pumping money back into the military to increase readiness and also put a sustainable retirement system in place that veterans can rely on.
“To be clear, the money we save from this reform will go right back to the military,” Mr. Ryan wrote in the USA Today oped. “Veterans aren’t Washington’s piggy bank. They deserve fair compensation. And we owe them a benefit structure they can count on.”
The budget deal also cuts retirement benefits for wounded vets, a mistake in the law that both Mrs. Murray and Mr. Ryan have vowed to amend before the cuts go into effect in 2015.