By Scott P. Brown
Taking care of our veterans is one of the most solemn obligations for members of the United States Congress. The men and women in uniform who volunteer to protect our freedom both at home and abroad deserve more than just words of respect and gratitude -- they deserve actions and votes that show that we truly appreciate their service and sacrifice.
That's why the recent budget deal that cuts military retiree benefits by $6 billion dollars is completely unacceptable. Both parties should work together to undo this mistake immediately when Congress returns to work in the New Year, but let's be clear: These cuts to veterans' benefits were a serious mistake that never should have happened.
With a national debt higher than $17 trillion and increasing every second, everyone knows we have to do something to cut government spending. Failure to act will risk sending our country down the path of Greece and other European nations on the brink of insolvency thanks to years of reckless and uncontrolled spending.
But starting the cuts by reducing the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for military retirees is the wrong approach. We shouldn't be balancing our books by breaking the promises to the people who have put everything on the line for us.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened with the recent bipartisan budget deal. Every politician who supported this legislation -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- was in the wrong. The blame crosses party lines.
Even more infuriating was the reaction from Washington politicians when they started to feel the heat for their actions. As veterans groups began voicing opposition to this bill, members of Congress sensed the political winds turning against them and started expressing faux outrage. Hours after the vote, some even started offering half-hearted and empty fixes. But none of this would be necessary if the bad law wasn't enacted in the first place.
What these Washington politicians don't understand is that voters are smart enough to see this kind of hypocrisy and double-speak. You can't on the one hand vote something into law and then in the next breath suddenly say you are working to repeal it.
Many Democrats are trying to use this similar bait and switch approach with Obamacare, sponsoring phony extensions and exemptions from the imploding disaster of a health care law. But they can't escape the reality that Obamacare wouldn't be the law of the land without every single one of them banding together and voting for it.
If recent polls are any indicator, voters aren't buying it. It's why congressional approval ratings have plummeted to record lows.
The American people aren't fooled. They know that Congress let down our country's veterans by cutting their benefits.
As a former member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I was proud to work on many initiatives to improve the lives of our retired service members. From working to protect Tricare from the devastating cuts in Obamacare to sponsoring jobs bills to incentivize veteran hiring to holding field hearings to help veterans cut through some of the red tape at the VA, I was humbled to have the chance to meet with so many of our heroes.
During my 34 years in the Army National Guard, I have had the honor to serve with some amazing men and women military members. They deserve better than to lose benefits that they earned and deserve.
Gutting the benefits of military retirees is no way to re-pay them for their sacrifice. By supporting these cuts, the leaders and members of both parties failed the veterans whose best interests they should be fighting for, not working against.