Senators say omnibus could include disabled veterans fix

The omnibus spending bill that appropriators are finalizing may restore pension benefits for medically retired benefits that were cut in last month’s budget deal, two senators said Wednesday.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said that the pension fix for disabled veterans would either be included in the omnibus bill or as a separate appropriations bill.

{mosads}Restoring benefits for medically retired veterans is one part of a larger effort from lawmakers to repeal a $6 billion cut to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for military retirees in the budget deal.

“There are two parts to the COLA issue. One impacts the veterans who are disabled,” Chambliss said at a GOP press conference on the benefits cut. “That’s going to be fixed in the short-term in the appropriations process, whether there are separate bills or whether there’s an omnibus bill.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters after the press conference that he was “pretty sure” the medically retired pension cuts would be addressed in the omnibus bill.

A Senate appropriations spokesman declined to comment on whether the medically retired benefits fix would be in the final bill.

The Budget Committee leaders who struck the budget deal signed into law last month said that they never intended for the benefits of medically retired veterans to be cut, calling it a “technical error.” They said it would quickly get resolved this year.

The budget deal reduced the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all working-age retirees under age 62 by 1 percentage point below inflation, which will save $6 billion in all. The disabled veterans benefits cut is roughly $600 million.

While there appears to be no opposition to reversing the medically retired portion of the benefits cut, the large issue is still up in the air.

One-in-three lawmakers have publicly backed repealing the full $6 billion cut, but it’s not clear whether an offset can be found to do so.

Some lawmakers are hoping the entire retirement benefits cut will be included in the omnibus bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hinted the issue could be taken up in the spending bill on Tuesday, though he did not make clear whether he was referring to the entire pensions cut or just for medically retired veterans. 

Tags Appropriations Harry Reid Lindsey Graham military pensions Omnibus spending bill Saxby Chambliss

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