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Posts tagged ‘Congressional Budget Office’

Biden: ‘We May Not Get to 7 Million’ by Obamacare Deadline.


Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged on Wednesday that it will be hard to reach the target on the number of people signing up for health insurance by a looming March 31 deadline for Obamacare enrollment.

The Congressional Budget Office had originally forecast that 7 million people would sign up for insurance, many with help from subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

But the program got off to a rough start in October when a website used to shop for insurance plans failed to work for almost two months. The nonpartisan CBO recently trimmed its enrollment forecast for 2014 to 6 million.

Biden, on his way to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Minneapolis, spoke with a small group of people in the city who are working to help others sign up for insurance, and thanked them for their work.

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“We may not get to seven million, we may get to five or six, but that’s a hell of a start,” Biden said, according to a pool report of his meeting.

The Obama administration said last week that 3.3 million people have enrolled in private Obamacare health plans between Oct. 1 and Feb 1.

The deadline for 2014 coverage is March 31, and the administration and allied groups are pushing to convince more uninsured people in big cities to sign up.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Economist Morici: Obama’s Minimum Wage Hike Will Cost Jobs.


A leading economist says the Congressional Budget Office is correct when it says President Barack Obama’s increase in the minimum wage for federal workers will lead to massive job losses.

“In the past when we’ve raised the minimum raise, it’s merely been to catch up with inflation,” Peter Morici, a professor of international business at the University of Maryland, told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“But the president is talking about a 40 percent increase. Going to McDonald’s is going to be like going to the Automat. They won’t be able to afford their people out there for you, or they’ll be closing McDonalds,” he said Wednesday.

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The increase, to $10.10 per hour for federal workers, will also have a ripple effect, Morici says.

“What they didn’t tell you, though, is if you raise the wages of 16 million Americans by $4 to $5 an hour, someone’s going to be charging higher prices and those wages won’t be worth what they’re worth today,” he said.

“So, a lot of this will be dissipated by inflation. What’s more, the economy will grow more slowly and Mr. Obama will have less real dollars to pay all of his welfare programs.

“The programs that these people depend on, like Medicaid and food stamps and so forth, will be under increasing stress because, guess what, the president has discovered he can’t cut defense any more.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Obamacare Adviser: 7 Million Was Never ‘Magic’ Enrollee Number.


White House healthcare policy adviser Phil Schiliro denies that attracting 7 million enrollees to Obamacare by March was ever the administration’s goal.

That figure was put out by the Congressional Budget Office in March, and was “never our target number,” Schiliro told NBC News Monday.

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Schiliro, who returned to the Obama administration in December to oversee healthcare policy after he’d been on hiatus for nearly three years, said there is no “magic” significance to signing up 7 million new customers, although that number has widely been seen as the administration’s goal for months.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in June that the Obama administration was “hopeful that 7 million is a realistic target,” The Washington Times reported.

Further, she said on Sept. 30, the day before the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, launched on Oct. 1, that “success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”

Schiliro, though, said Sebelius was merely citing a figure that came from the CBO, “and it had become an accepted number.”

“There’s no magic to the 7 million.” Schiliro said. “What there is magic to is that in the month of December, a million Americans signed up for insurance not because they had to — they didn’t face a penalty if they didn’t. They signed up because they wanted insurance on Jan. 1.”

The numbers ahead of March 31, which is the last day for open enrollment, aren’t a problem yet, said Marilyn Tavenneradministrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We are in the middle of a sustained, six-month open enrollment period that we expect to see enrollment ramp up over time, much like other historic implementation efforts we’ve seen in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D,” she said.

About 2 million people have enrolled for insurance so far, which is still lower than the 3.3 million the government had projected by this time.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

2013: The Year of Broken Obamacare Promises.


Image: 2013: The Year of Broken Obamacare Promises

By Cathy Burke

President Obama’s inauguration in January kicked off a year of broken promises about his signature health care law, threatening to turn a presidency based on vows of hope and change to one doling out disappointment and failures.

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, but it was in 2013 that the health care reform law implode into a nightmare of broken promises. Assertions made by the president and Health Secretary weeks ago, months ago and even years ago have over and over again proved to been misleading at best and complete untrue at worst.

No, you may not be able to keep your doctor or your plan. And, no, the website is not user-friendly.

Here are the Top-10 Obamacare promises that were broken in 2013:

1. The website is simple and user-friendly

Hardly. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius‘s claim in an op-ed piece in USA Today turned out to be a glib — and false — boast.

Even Democrat-friendly Jon Stewart‘s The Daily Show hammered Sebelius on the widespread and well-reported problems with the HealthCare.gov sign-ups. Stewart ended the interview with the official in a merciless monologue in which he wondered: “And then I think to myself, ‘well, maybe she’s just lying to me.’”

Just days into its disastrous rollout, the Obamacare website was out of order until mid-morning Oct. 8, a public relations headache given the administration had pledged to sign up 7 million people for Obamacare insurance by the start of 2014.

The early outage wasn’t the last; on Dec. 20, a mere three days before the deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1, yet another outage lasted for several hours.

Even members of Congress were vexed by Obamacare’s glitches.

2. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

Obama’s June 6, 2009 assertion was wrong. As insurers sent cancellations to millions of individual policy holders because their plans were sub-par for Obamacare standards, the president’s oft-repeated pledge blew apart, and PolitiFact declared the vow the “lie of the year.”

But respected Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer railed Obamacare itself was a fraud from the beginning, writing the law “was designed to throw people off their private plans and into government-run exchanges where they would be made to overpay — forced to purchase government-mandated services they don’t need — as a way to subsidize others.”

3. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

Obama’s 2009 promise was wrong again, we learned in 2013. For insured Americans dumped by their employer-sponsored plans because they don’t cut it with the new health care law, or pushed by their insurers to re-enroll at higher rates, it’s likely they won’t be able to keep their doctors, conservative blogger Cam Harris writes.

Offering the example of the 15,000 spouses of UPS employees forced to seek out new plans on the individual market, Harris writes they’ll find their Obamacare network won’t include their usual MD.

4. Premiums will fall by as much as $2,500 per family

That won’t happen. Forbes magazine, comparing Affordable Care Act premiums versus pre-Obamacare premiums, finds this presidential assertion a dud.

According to Forbes, and based on a Manhattan Institute analysis of the HHS numbers, Obamacare will actually jack up underlying insurance rates for young men by an average of 97 to 99 percent, and for young women by an average of 55 to 62 percent. As for states, the worst off is North Carolina, which is expected to see individual-market rates triple for women, and quadruple for men, the analysis showed.

5. Obamacare won’t add ‘one dime to our deficits’

But it does. Even the Government Accountability Office’s report of Feb. 26, 2013, projected Obamacare will increase the long-term federal deficit by $6.2 trillion.

An Investor’s Business Daily analysis also shot down the Obama promise, reporting the Affordable Care Act could actually add $18 billion in red ink.

6. The ACA will cost around $900 billion over 10 years

Not even close. A Congressional Budget Office’s report from May 2013 puts the real price tag more around the area of $1.8 trillion. And the cost projections rise with every new estimated, conservative blogger Cam Harris noted.

7. Families making less than $250,000 won’t see ‘any form’ of tax increase

Far from it. Obamacare contains 18 separate tax hikes, fees, and penalties, many of which heavily impact the middle class, the Heritage Foundation maintains.

Citing a Joint Committee on Taxation 2012 report and Congressional Budget Office information, as well as a Heritage Foundation report, Obamacare’s taxes and penalties will accumulate over $770 billion in new revenue over a 10-year period, and among taxes that’ll pound the middle class are the individual mandate tax, the medical device tax, and new penalties and limits on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.

8. The ACA will keep healthcare costs down.

So says the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

But it’s just not so, according to senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow James Captretta writes in the Weekly Standard.

Here’s why: National Health Expenditure projections show a slowdown in health spending that began long before Obamacare was passed, and was due to factors entirely unrelated, he argues.

In 2002, NHE spending per capita rose 8.5 percent and then began to slow over the ensuring years, he notes. And HHS actuaries even concede the reasons their estimates of health costs over the coming decade are lower than they were a few years ago is due to economic conditions, fiscal policy changes, including a sequester cut of Medicare payments, and a slowdown in growth in Medicaid, Medicare, and other government programs — all unrelated to Obamacare.

9. You have a deadline and a mandate.

Maybe. Squishy deadlines, and “fixes” have been a hallmark of Obamacare almost from the start.

In the most major fix of a problem aimed at people who lost their coverage because it didn’t measure up to Obamacare standards, the administration abruptly shifted gears Dec. 19, changing policy to help people make a deadline to replace dropped insurance plans.

Those with inadequate insurance that got canceled were now allowed to claim a “hardship exemption,” giving them the option to buy cheaper, minimal coverage plans normally available only to people under 30.

Another “fix” came Nov. 14, a week after the president apologized for the cancellations sent to people whose insurance didn’t meet new standards. The president asked insurers to keep offering those plans for a year even if they don’t meet minimum Obamacare requirements.

For small businesses, Obama last July bumped back the deadline requiring companies with 50 or more employees to offer insurance from Jan. 1 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015.

As for sign-up deadlines, it’s been confusing at best. In October, people had until Dec. 15 to pick a plan if they wanted coverage beginning Jan. 1. Then, in November, it was extended to Dec. 23.

But citing high traffic to the HealthCare.gov website and at call centers before that deadline, the goal posts moved again, this time to Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

Officials said nearly 2 million visits had been logged by that time in the last-minute rush, Yet in a blog post on the website Dec. 24, the administration suggested additional flexibility.

“Sometimes despite your best efforts, you might have run into delays caused by heavy traffic to HealthCare.gov, maintenance periods, or other issues with our systems that prevented you from finishing the process on time,” the post said. “If this happened to you, don’t worry — we still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1.”

HHS also pushed back the deadline when the first month’s premium would be due, and insurers obliged, extending the payment deadline nine days, to Jan. 10.

10. Sure, the national exchange is glitchy, but the state sites are working great.

Not so fast.

Obamacare’s state-run enrollment operations have had technological delays and low sign-up levels. Several states even replaced top executives.

“Some of these states have been committed, but it’s just been hurdle after hurdle after hurdle,” said Heather Howard, program director at the State Health Reform Assistance Network, a Princeton, New Jersey-based group advising state exchanges told Bloomberg News. “I do think those states will get there, but this is an ambitious undertaking in the best of cases.”

Meanwhile, Massachusetts and Vermont are weighing legal options against the contractor that designed their healthcare insurance exchange websites. both states used Montreal-based CGI Group, which built HealthCare.gov, and say they are withholding future payments and taking steps now to recoup millions in taxpayer dollars already spent on their websites that still have serious problems, reports The Boston Globe.

“CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,” said Jason Lefferts, a spokesman for the Massachusetts’ insurance marketplace, Commonwealth Home Connector. “We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.”
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

1.3 Million Americans Lose Unemployment Benefits.


More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm election year.

Nudging Congress along, a vacationing President Barack Obama called two senators proposing an extension to offer his support. From Hawaii, Obama pledged Friday to push Congress to move quickly next year to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said.

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For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.

Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the “emergency” program expire as part of a budget deal, it’s unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.

An estimated 1.3 million people will be cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments end Saturday.

Some 214,000 Californians will lose their payments, a figure expected to rise to more than a half-million by June, the Labor Department said. In the last 12 months, Californians received $4.5 billion in federal jobless benefits, much if plowed back into the local economy.

More than 127,000 New Yorkers also will be cut off this weekend. In New Jersey, 11th among states in population, 90,000 people will immediately lose out.

Started under President George W. Bush, the benefits were designed as a cushion for the millions of U.S. citizens who lost their jobs in a recession and failed to find new ones while receiving state jobless benefits, which in most states expire after six months. Another 1.9 million people across the country are expected to exhaust their state benefits before the end of June.

But Obama has no quick fix. He hailed this month’s two-year budget agreement as a breakthrough of bipartisan cooperation while his administration works with Democratic allies in the House and Senate to revive an extension of jobless benefits for those unemployed more than six months.

The Obama administration says those payments have kept 11.4 million people out of poverty and benefited almost 17 million children. The cost of them since 2008 has totaled $225 billion.

At the depth of the recession, laid off workers could qualify for up to 99 weeks of benefits, including the initial 26 weeks provided by states. The most recent extension allowed a total of up to 73 weeks, depending on the state.

Restoring up to 47 extra weeks of benefits through 2014 would cost $19 billion, according to the Congressional Budget office.

House Democrats led by Reps. Sander Levin of Michigan and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland sought to include an extension through March by offsetting the costs with potential farm bill savings. They were rebuffed.

Senate Democrats and some Republicans plan another push in 2014. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., have introduced a bill offering a similar three-month extension, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised to bring it up. But as with much in Congress, an extension is no sure thing.

In phone calls on Friday, Obama told Reed and Heller he was glad they were working together to address the problem. “It defies economic sense, precedent and our values,” Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling said in a statement.

House Speaker John Boehner spoke with Obama about an extension earlier this month. Boehner and said his caucus would consider the possibility “as long as it’s paid for and as long as there are other efforts that will help get our economy moving once again.” He said White House has yet to introduce a plan that meets his standards.

For other Republicans, the bar is higher. Many of them look at signs of economic growth and an unemployment rate now down to 7 percent and expected to drop further as evidence the additional weeks of benefits are no longer necessary.

The effect of jobless benefits on the unemployment rates has been fiercely debated for decades. To qualify, people have to be seeking work. Tea partiers such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky argue that the payments aggravate rather than relieve unemployment.

The benefits allow some jobseekers to hold out for higher wages. Without the benefits, they might accept lower-paying jobs, reducing the unemployment rate. Others may be looking for work only to keep the benefits flowing and will drop out of the job market entirely once the checks stop. In theory, that also would push the unemployment rate lower.

The flip side is that the benefits — in addition to alleviating suffering — get spent on consumer goods, stimulating the economy and creating jobs.

Extended unemployment insurance “is really a lifeline to help pay the bills, put food on the table, and put gas in the tank so people can look for work,” argued Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director at the left-leaning National Employment Law Project.

Michael Feroli, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase, said ending the extended benefits will lower the unemployment rate by half a percentage point as the long-term unemployed leave the labor force. While that statistical change may look good on the surface, Feroli cautioned the drop could be accompanied by a similar decrease in consumer spending. That would also hurt clothing retailers, car dealers and other Main Street businesses.

Extending the program, on the other hand, would boost GDP growth by some 0.2 percent and increase full-time employment by 200,000 next year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, but at the price of increasing the government’s debt.

Advocates of extended benefits say communities hardest hit by the recession will feel the sudden loss of cash in circulation the most.

They cite a set of their own troublesome figures: three jobseekers still competing for each opening; some 4 million people in the ranks of long-term unemployed; unemployment lasting on average 37 weeks, two months longer than most states provide insurance, most states provide insurance.

Editor’s Note: Ordinary Man Retires at 42. His Secret to Success . . .

___

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Honolulu contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Insurers Dubious About New Obamacare Fix for January Health Plans.


Image: Insurers Dubious About New Obamacare Fix for January Health PlansKen Statz, a health insurance broker, at his office in Brecksville, Ohio on Dec. 3. Statz said he had been stymied in his efforts to enroll clients through HealthCare.gov.

Insurance companies are struggling with a new request by the Obama administration to make sure people receive medical benefits under healthcare reform come Jan. 1, even if they miss a sign-up deadline set for next Monday.The government has sought to reassure consumers, already frustrated by technical problems that stalled access to its HealthCare.gov enrollment website in October and November, that those who need coverage starting on New Year’s Day will be able to sign up.

Last week, the administration appealed to the insurance industry to accept people who sought benefits past the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for Jan. 1, and to consider approving retroactive coverage for consumers who signed up during the month of January.

So far, the answer has amounted to a big “maybe.”

Insurers are worried that some consumers will sign up for retroactive January plans only if they have incurred a hefty medical bill. It is unclear what the costs of that would be or how many shoppers might take advantage of the policy.

“It creates a situation where someone might be able to apply for insurance when they have already had services” such as in the emergency room, said Mary Beth Chambers, spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. “It’s like calling for homeowners insurance when your house is already on fire.”

Chambers said that such cases would probably be “few and far between.”

BCBS of Kansas, the largest insurer in a state where about 14 percent of the population is uninsured, has decided to give people until Jan. 10 to pay their premiums and receive retroactive coverage beginning Jan. 1. They are still hewing to the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline while they study the feasibility of allowing retroactive sign-ups as late as Jan. 31.

Some of these changes and the technical problems associated with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, could lead to people facing a gap in coverage next month. It could also create new political problems for President Barack Obama over his signature domestic policy, which opposition Republicans have tried to derail for years.

Aetna Inc, one of the biggest players on the exchange, is going to extend the payment date until Jan. 8, make service workflow changes to support the deadline shift to Dec. 23 from Dec. 15 and already planned to ensure customers will not miss important appointments, such as cancer treatments. But it said some of the administration’s suggestions would require systems changes and more service support people, which was not viable.

“We are concerned that changing the rules at this late date and allowing for this degree of variability will lead to significant consumer confusion about the marketplace,” Aetna spokeswoman Cynthia Michener said.

Cigna Chief Executive David Cordani said the company will decide this week which measures to pursue. The company, which has only a small business catering to individuals, said that its employer-based plans already offer similar programs to ensure continuity of coverage.

Other insurers, including Molina Healthcare Inc which is selling Obamacare plans in 9 states, have said they will be extending the payment deadline but are stopping there.

The request has raised concerns among some Wall Street analysts over a steady stream of changing regulations. Moody’s, which reviews credit ratings of companies, said the additional conditions are a negative influence on insurers’ business, requiring administrative changes to track new customers, and will be confusing for doctors and consumers.

Enrollment in Obamacare plans has picked up in December, due to fixes for HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, and as consumers nationwide anticipate the Dec. 23 deadline for Jan. 1 benefits. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 7 million people will sign up for coverage by the time enrollment for all of 2014 ends on March 31.But the pace of enrollments so far – 365,000 people by the end of November – has cast doubt on the government’s ability to reach that many people in the program’s first year.

Wall Street analysts have lowered their estimates for enrollment to almost half the CBO estimate, or less. Insurers have tempered their expectations as well. For the larger players like Aetna, WellPoint and Humana, the exchange market is just a fraction of their total membership, which range from more than 10 million people to 40 million at UnitedHealth Group Inc.

More than 150 million people receive insurance through their employers and 100 million others have health coverage through government programs – Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.

Brian Hale, a senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service in Nashville, Tennessee, said that he believes the number of people trying to sign up for Jan. 1 Obamacare coverage is a fraction of the 10 to 20 million people in the market for individual insurance this year.

Out of that, the number who may be truly displaced is “a much smaller number of people then it’s been made out to be,” Hale said.

Ron Williams, the former CEO of Aetna who now advises private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, said he believed insurers could allow for retroactive coverage for a few more days in January and still mitigate the risk of high costs.

“There is some risk there; it is a limited risk,” Williams said.

Funding under the healthcare law may help cover some of that risk, or the costs that come when very sick people sign up at a disproportionate rate versus healthy people.

Vantage Health Plan in Louisiana is planning to extend the deadline for people to enroll for Jan. 1 coverage, but has not decided how long to do so, according to Billy Justice, Vantage’s marketing and sales director.

Justice said that the law prohibits insurers from denying coverage to someone with a prior illness “and there should be risk adjustments at the end of the year for insurance companies that get the highest risk.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Sen. Levin: We’ll Review Budget Deal’s Military Cuts.


After howls of protest from military groups over pension cuts in a House budget deal, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Friday promised to review the slash, the Military Times reported.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said his committee review along with an ongoing survey by a military commission may “further bear on this issue,” the newspaper said.

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“A number of concerns have been raised about the provision in the Murray-Ryan budget agreement,” Levin said in a statement.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee is going to review this change after we convene next year, before it takes effect in December 2015.”

The provision would restrict the annual pay adjustment of military pensions for working-age military retirees to 1 percentage point less than the rise in consumer prices.

The cut saves $6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office — but military retirees could lose up to $124,000 in retirement income.

The Military Officers Association of America estimates the provision amounts to a nearly 20 percent gouge in retired pay for soldiers who retire at 20 years, the Military Times reported.

“A 20 percent reduction in retired pay and survivor benefit values is a very substantial cut in military career benefits, and does not represent good faith to our men and women in uniform,” the officers’ association president and retired Vice Adm. Norb Ryan told the newspaper.

In an opinion piece for CNN.com Friday, Army wife and writer Rebekah Sanderlin chastised lawmakers for putting military families through a “trying” year.

“With its budget cuts, sequestration and government shutdown, this year has been more trying for military families than the worst of the war years,” she wrote. “I’m afraid that after all that my community has given in time, tears and lives, the country we served might be trying to skip out on the check.”

It’s not just current troops who are affected, Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander William Thien warned — the cut could also jeopardize the nation’s all-volunteer military.

“Although Iraq is over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, we can’t allow Congress to dismantle the programs they created over the past 12 years,” he said.

The cut has also drawn the ire of a number of senators who will next vote on the pact that sailed through the House Thursday.

They include Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, but Thien said the VFW will press its case to the rest of the upper chamber.

“We know the federal government needs to curb its spending, balance its budget, and put an end to the sequester, but penalizing military retirees is not the solution,” he said.

Editor’s Note: 75% of Seniors Make This $152,000 Social Security Mistake 

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

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