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Lankford: Budget cuts to military pensions “incredibly difficult”

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OKLAHOMA CITY -  Rep. James Lankford said voting in favor of a new federal budget deal last week was not easy since it included cuts to military retiree benefits.

The federal budget, which easily passed the House on Thursday and is now pending in the Senate, would cut pension cost of living raises by 1 percent for military retirees who aren't disabled and not yet 62-years-old.

The annual raises are automatic and intended to keep up with the cost of inflation.

Lankford said the budget deal will protect our national defense from across-the-board cuts.

"All these decisions are incredibly difficult for us because we know these are the folks that actually protected our freedom," Lankford said.  "This put us in a very, very bad situation where we're actually dealing with major cuts in active military right now or a slight reduction in retired [cost of living raises] for military."

Lankford said the cuts stem from the 2011 Budget Control Act, which aimed at long-term fiscal reform.

This is the second year of those required cuts, which Lankford said focuses on the military.

Retired Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, Secretary of Oklahoma Military & Veterans Affairs, believes Congress could have cut somewhere else.

She said, "They're betting on the long haul that their country will take care of them if they're willing to put their life on the line."

Lankford explained that retirees who served at least 20 years in the military receive two increases in their retirement every year.

The first increase, a 2.5 percent annual increase, will stay the same.

The budget cut only affects the cost of living increase.

The Senate is expected to pass the budget bill later this week.

After the story aired, Rep. Lankford told us that he was misinformed on those statistics.

He clarified that military retirees do not receive an annual 2.5 percent increase in benefits.

Lankford also talked about his plans to introduce a bill that would restore military retirement benefits, while making the necessary budget cuts.