JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In a vote of 64-36, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year budget deal Wednesday afternoon, avoiding $31 billion in defense cuts, and ending fears of another government shutdown.
But military advocate John Markiewicz isn't happy.
"It's an easy way out," he told Action News as the votes were being cast.
The deal includes a $6.2 billion cut to veteran pensions. The cost of living increase that retirees receive to cover inflation is now 1 percent less for those under age 62.
"Betrayal," said Markiewicz. "They feel like they're being betrayed by their own government."
For Paul Pratt, who served on the front lines for the Army for 20 years, the cut adds up to thousands of dollars.
"This is the way we show our appreciation? I don't think so. When you've put in so much time and worn the uniform of this country and the country tells you this is the way that it thanks you. It really hurts. It really does."
Supporters say the cuts were necessary to avoid layoffs and furloughs.
"We had to look at how we could find compromises. There's things in this I like. There are things in this I don't like," said Sen. Patty Murray, Senate budget chairman.
But those opposed, like Markiewicz, say lawmakers are taking a risk that could negatively impact troop morale, and threaten national security. He said the benefits are hard-earned.
"They made their career based on promises made by our government. What's left to induce anybody to make a military career?"
Now he and Pratt are hoping lawmakers will go back and cut something else.
"They could find money in other places, said Pratt. "Pick any other area to cut, but leave the veterans alone."
Lawmakers from both parties say they will work to make changes. Leaders in the House plan to introduce a measure that would restore those benefits on Thursday.
If it doesn't pass, the cut will take effect in 2016.