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Owens opposes reduction to cost of living adjustment for younger military retirees

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A planned reduction in cost-of-living adjustment benefits for younger military retirees has faced opposition from many in Congress, including Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

The change in benefits comes as a part of the bipartisan budget agreement to fund the government in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years that passed Congress last week and awaits the president’s signature.

If enacted, the cost-of-living adjustment for pensions received by people under 62 would be modified on Dec. 1, 2015, to equal inflation minus 1 percent. Upon reaching 62, retirees would receive a “catch-up” increase that would restore their pensions to levels as if the cost-of-living adjustment had been the full consumer price index in all previous years.

The benefit reduction would affect even those retiring early with disabilities.

The change would save the government $6 billion.

Mr. Owens said the cost-of-living change was something he saw as an issue when it went through the House.

“It wasn’t perfect,” he said. “I had concern about a variety of things. This is one of them.”

Mr. Owens is a co-sponsor of a bill by Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Fla., that would repeal the change. A similar effort is being led in the Senate by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Repealing the change, Mr. Owens said, likely would generate support among legislators in a similar way to how Congress came together to reduce the impacts of sequestration.

“I have every confidence that we’ll be able to do it in this instance as well,” he said.

Mr. Owens echoed previous statements by saying he was gauging his outlook about Congress repealing the benefit change on whether it could pass a farm bill in the new year.

The benefit reduction also faced opposition from the office of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Luckily, these changes do not take effect for two years, and Sen. Schumer is going to fight hard to fix them before they do,” his spokeswoman Meredith Kelly wrote in an email to the Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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