New budget to cut retirement pay for veterans

New budget to cut retirement pay for veterans

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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Veterans' groups say they're being singled out in a bi-partisan budget deal passed Thursday by Congress.  

The legislation passed the Democratic-controlled Senate on a vote of 64 to 36, six days after clearing the Republican-run House by a similarly bipartisan margin of 332 to 94.  

It includes a provision to cut cost-of-living increases, saving the government more than $6 billion over the next 10 years.  

The cuts would reduce the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)  from the military retirees' pensions, which are earned after more than 20 years of service.          

Under the new budget, retirees get one percent less each of this adjustment every year until the age of 62. In some cases, retirees could lose up to $80,000 in lost benefits over time.

Knoxville resident Lester Finuf retired in August as a master sergeant after serving 23 years in the Air Force.  

The 46-year-old has put his life on the line for his county, and was awarded a Purple Heart after taking sniper fire as a combat cameraman documenting a Marine fight near Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.  

"You work 20-plus years for it, sacrifice, most people sacrifice marriages, children, when you lose that and you can't count on what you promised, it's a hard pill to swallow," said Finuf.  

Finuf takes home around $2,500 dollars a month in retirement benefits.  

The one percent cost of living reduction would mean he mean take home $ 400 less each year.

Finuf would continue to see reductions until he's 62.

"As a veteran, you're always worried about with a change of political scene, what's going to happen next," said Finuf.  

The budget was voted down by most of Tennessee's congressmen, including Sen. Lamar Alexander.

"It is particularly troubling that the budget agreement takes money from pensions in a way that treats military retirees worse than the civilian federal employees," read a statement released by his office on voting against the budget agreement.   

The cuts won't go into effect until 2015, and Finuf says it won't dramatically alter his retirement plans, at least for now.

"It's not like it's going to happen tomorrow, I got time to adjust and redo my budget," Finuf said.

President Obama is expected to sign the budget this month.

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