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Veteran's COLA benefits restoration bill awaits President's signature


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Late Wednesday, a bill passed through Congress that would restore the COLA, or cost of living allowance, for retired members of the military. The COLA benefits were stripped away by Congress during budget battles last year.

Portage County Veterans Service Officer Michael Clements says this new legislation that’s awaiting President Obama’s signature isn’t perfect, but it helps. “Basically, they rescinded the other measure that they had passed and they reinstated the cost of living for those military retirees of working age.”

Clements believes the new legislation takes care of people already in the military, but believes not offering COLA benefits to soldiers that are just now joining the military is a mistake, because it may impact recruiting and keeping career soldiers. “They could have gone a little bit further on this with respect to anybody that goes in after January 1st, 2014, they will not get a cost of living increase, so from that perspective, they could have done a little bit better, but this was a great victory for military retirees.”

The cost of living benefit adds up to a significant amount of money, and was part of the package promised to nearly all retirees when they enlisted. “It’s estimated to be around $80,000 dollars for a working age retiree. That is someone who’s retired from the military at age 40, up until the point they can collect Social Security. That COLA comes to about $80,000 for an E-7 Sergeant during that time period, during his working years.”

Clements believes the about-face on this issue in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate is because veterans groups put the pressure on them. “Veterans service organizations have really taken this matter to task up on the hill (Capitol Hill), and our legislators listened to them, and from my perspective, they did the right thing.”

So far, there is no indication when President Obama may sign the modified COLA legislation.

(Our interview with Michael Clements can be heard on our website, here.)