A cut in military pensions that's part of the budget bill signed by President Barack Obama last week will be a "terrible thing" when it starts in 2015, three local veterans leaders say.
The 1 percent cut to the annual cost-of-living adjustment to the pensions of military veterans is part of next year's federal budget. The cut to the annual adjustment would have saved about $6 billion, but a late amendment to exempt disabled retirees reduced the savings by about 10 percent.
The cut has angered veterans across the country, including Col. John Payne, a Marine Corps retiree and chairman of the Beaufort County Military Enhancement Committee.
"The people this cut is taking from are the people who kept this country free," he said. "Their sacrifices are no less important than those of the 'greatest generation,' the veterans from World War II."
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Payne said the federal budget needed to be cut, but not by reducing veterans' benefits.
"We understand the budget needs to be balanced, but to try and balance it on the backs of those veterans is wrong. What a place to take it from."
Chuck Lurey, commander of Beaufort American Legion Post 9, said it would be a "terrible thing" to enforce the cuts. Lurey said he and his wife were fortunate to have had successful careers after his military service, something not every veteran has.
"The cut is not going to make me go broke or be unable to put food on the table, but there are millions out there where that cut is going to make a lot of difference," he said. "In a town like Beaufort with a lot of retirees, there's definitely going to be a hit because of it."
Lurey said one projection he saw showed the cut would cost a retiree who reached the rank of captain nearly $80,000 over his lifetime.
Bill Havlin, Beaufort Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8760 commander, said the veterans' cost-of-living increase was already lower than national averages before the budget cut.
"The military is always the first cut," he said. "If there's anybody who needs a cut, it's Congress. Let them get the benefits of veterans and see if they like it -- having to work off percentages and get a second job."
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.