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Critics vow to change federal budget that cuts young veterans' benefits

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

A budget deal heading to President Obama's desk will affect the military community.

Wednesday night the U.S. Senate passed a two year spending bill that had already passed the House. The budget gets rid of the threat of any government shutdown through 2015, and it also eases or eliminates many of the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester. Those cuts were particularly hard on the military, but with some resolution of those cuts comes other cuts to benefits for military retirees. The budget deal puts new limits on the pension for working-age military retirees.

Those affected by the cuts will be young veterans including those on disability retirements.

For veterans who have served 20 years in the military but are not yet at full retirement age of 62, the new budget reduces their cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) -- the percentage that their pension checks go up each year to keep pace with inflation -- by 1 percent. It saves $6.2 billion dollars over the next decade.

Norb Ryan of the Military Officers Association argues the average enlisted person would lose a total of $8,000 dollars in retirement money. That is an average for military retirees between ages 38 and 62.

However, some veterans, such as those who were high-ranking or the youngest vets who retired because of disabilities, stand to lose much more.

Many critics have argued, the cuts should not affect those already receiving benefits or currently serving. That has sparked an online campaign using the twitter hashtag #keepyourpromise.

Army Veteran Daniel Cooper in Fayetteville said the government shouldn't back out on promised benefits.

"We swore in all foreign and domestic enemies we need to protect our country against, and they swore to us through contract and vow of taking care of us," Cooper said. "If you signed a contract, or with me, you shake my hand and look me in the eye that's good enough, but it's bigger than that. We signed contracts. We were given a promise."

The budget law was called the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, and it passed the Senate 64-36. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., advocated together for the budget.

Some lawmakers, including North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan are already calling to restore the full benefit amount. Hagan and Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced a bill that would make that change in the budget.

The potential to change the budget is one reason many lawmakers agreed to pass the spending plan in the first place. Although there is some bipartisan support, there is no guarantee they will succeed in adjusting the military pension cut next year.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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