Big Three Networks Out to Lunch on Benefits Cuts To Disabled Military Veterans

ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning and evening newscasts, which hyped the sequester's "deep, across-the-board spending cuts" earlier in 2013, have largely been silent about the reductions in the annual cost of living increases for military veterans – part of the budget deal proposed by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray. But more egregiously, these programs have failed to notice that disabled veterans are not exempt from these cuts, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, Norah O'Donnell's question to Rep. Ryan himself on the December 12, 2013 edition of CBS This Morning is the only mention of the reductions in the veterans' pensions on the broadcast networks' news shows:

NORAH O'DONNELL: Congressman, I just have to get to ask you, though – because military members want to know why you asked them to take a cut, in terms of cost in – living increases. You know the men and women in this country, who fight and die for this country, want to know why they should not get a cost of living increase like they have in the past.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R), HOUSE BUDGET CMTE. CHAIRMAN: This is a reform that was asked for us by the defense folks – by DOD and people in the defense community – because this is a part of their budget that is squeezing so – all the readiness; all the things that they want to buy. So, it's a problem that the Pentagon has with their budget, and it's only for young retirees who are in working age.

What happens is after you put 20 years in – typically, you go get another career, and your pension supplements that. So, before you're 62, your inflation update won't be as high as after you're 62. And when you turn 62, you'll get a catch-up provision. So, this reflects the reality of the fact that a lot of people who are pre-retirement age – but have already retired – are doing two jobs. But more importantly, Norah, this frees up more money for the Pentagon, so that we can meet our readiness needs.

However, O'Donnell didn't zero in on the lack of an exemption for disabled military retirees' pensions.

NBC's David Gregory did mention the cuts during an interview of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Sunday's Meet the Press (along with an accompanying on-screen graphic), but Today and NBC Nightly News didn't pick up on his reporting:

[NBC News Graphic: "Budget Deal: -No Government Shutdowns For Next 2 Years; -Deficit Reduction Of $23 Billion; -Reduces Amount Of Spending Cuts; -Reduces Cost-Of-Living Increases For Military Retirees"]

DAVID GREGORY: So, let me ask you about the big debate here in Washington, which is about the budget. I want to just remind people what we're talking about – this – this deal – no government shutdowns for two years; deficit reduction of $23 billion – that's over 10 years, so it's not a lot – reduces the amount of spending cuts; in other words, allows for more spending in some areas, and reduces cost of living increases for military retirees.

The closest that ABC's morning and evening newscasts got to even mentioning the reductions was a news brief on the December 11, 2013 of Good Morning America:


JOSH ELLIOTT: Another big headline from Washington: the House and Senate leaders have reached a budget deal to prevent another government shutdown, and to raise military and domestic spending. The deal would cut pensions for federal workers, and raise fees for airline travelers. It still has to be approved by the full House and Senate.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center