Charlie Crist Once Again Gets Coast Guard Retirement Parity Act Through House as Part of NDAA

This week, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., was once again able to get a proposal to help protect retired veterans who served in the United States Coast Guard (USCG) through the U.S. House.

Back in March, Crist introduced the “Coast Guard Retirement Parity Act” with U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and the Tampa Bay congressman’s office offered some of the rationales behind why Coast Guard retirees should be included in the Military Retirement Fund.

“Under the current ‘accrual’ system, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force retirement benefits are paid through the Military Retirement Fund, a fiscally responsible public pension fund managed by actuaries. Every year, the Department of Defense contributes to the fund in anticipation of future retiree costs, protecting retirees and taxpayers alike. Coast Guard retirement benefits, on the other hand, require an annual funding bill, which is not only less efficient but threatens retired Coast Guard servicemembers in the event of a government shutdown. The bill corrects this disparity and treats Coast Guard retirement benefits just like the other branches of the military,” Crist’s office noted.

Crist weighed in on his proposal when he introduced it.

“The effects of the 2019 government shutdown were felt across the country, and Coast Guard servicemembers and their families were especially hit hard. Here in Pinellas County, not only did active duty Coasties go without pay, but Coast Guard retirees were days away from missed retirement payments from the government they swore an oath to protect,” said Crist.

“Learning from the mistakes of the past, the Coast Guard Retirement Parity Act rights this wrong. If a shutdown were to happen again, Coast Guard retirees would be protected. This commonsense fix is good for the Coast Guard, good for those who served, and good for taxpayers. A grateful nation should safeguard and protect hard-earned veterans retirement benefits, and that is exactly what this legislation will accomplish,” Crist added.

“Veterans of our United States Coast Guard, just like all U.S. veterans, have dedicated their lives to serving our nation and they should never have to worry about interruptions in their retirement benefits,” said Palazzo. “During the 2019 government shutdown, over 50,000 Coast Guard retirees were facing the unfair reality that their retirement payments were not going to be provided because they’re currently excluded from the DOD retirement fund, and to me that’s completely unacceptable. Our bill addresses this disparity and ensures that these Coast Guard retirees and their families are taken care of and receive the benefits they earned.”

Crist was able to add the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which cleared the House on a 295-125 vote back in July. After the NDAA passed, Crist weighed in on his amendment.

“After dutifully serving our nation for decades, no U.S. veteran should ever have to worry about an interruption in the retirement benefits they have earned and that their families rely upon,” said Crist. “For the Coasties who call Pinellas County home, and all those across the nation, I am proud that my bipartisan legislation has been included in the Coast Guard Authorization Act. And with the Coast Guard Authorization Act now being tacked on to the annual Defense Authorization bill, Coast Guard veterans and their families are on a path to having their pay and benefits protected for the long run.”

With the U.S. House passing another version of the NDAA this week on a 335-78 vote, Crist was able to include his proposal in it one more time. However, President Donald Trump is threatening to veto the NDAA unless it repeals Section 230 which protects internet companies from being sued over what is posted on their websites, either by them or by orther parties. The president has also criticized the NDAA for renaming military bases honoring Confederate leaders.

“Like all other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, Coasties have devoted their lives in service to our nation, vowing to always be ready when duty calls. But unlike all other branches, Coast Guard veterans have been the only ones to have to worry about an interruption in their retirement benefits,” said Crist on Tuesday.

“My bipartisan proposal would right that wrong, giving Coasties retirees peace of mind knowing the benefits they earned will never falter. I’m proud that we were able to include retirement parity in the annual defense bill, and I look forward to it becoming law in the near future. Protecting Pinellas Coasties is my job, and this win for them is proof that Congress works best when representatives put differences aside and work together on a bipartisan basis to get things done.”

“As we saw with the late 2018 and early 2019 government shutdown, U.S. Coast Guard members and retired veterans were unfairly subject to a gap in pay and benefits due to the service’s unique position as both a brand of the U.S. military and a law enforcement agency housed inside of the Department of Homeland Security,” said Mike Stevens, the national executive director of the Navy League. “The U.S. Coast Guard continues to always punch above its weight class and is one of the best returns on investment the U.S. taxpayer makes related to national security. The Navy League of the United States wholly supports the Coast Guard Retirement Parity Act and any further acts that would recognize that these men and women deserve the United States to honor their pay and benefits in times of government shutdown.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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