Dellinger responds to columnist’s views on COLA

The following is National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger’s response to syndicated columnist Ruth Marcus’s piece “Bipartisan caving on military pension cuts” published by The Washington Post on Feb. 11. The Washington Post has declined to publish Dellinger’s response.


As National Commander of the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization, I was dumbfounded by Ruth Marcus’s characterization of military retirement benefits as “extraordinarily generous.” She laments that Congress is correcting its earlier error of lowering future Cost of Living Allowances that military retirees would receive. While she cites a supportive statement from three retired flag officers about the proposed cuts, she neglects to mention that those officers would have been exempted from the COLA reductions and combined will earn more than $560,800 in retirement pay in 2014. I am more concerned about the impact such cuts would have on the retired E-7 that the Military Times estimates would see an average loss of $100,000 by the time he or she reached 62.

The American Legion is happy to see that Ms. Marcus is concerned about training, readiness and modernization. We hope she joins us in opposing the sequestration that has led to these draconian and irresponsible cuts.  It is unconscionable, however, to pit military retirement benefits against military readiness in an all-volunteer force where strong incentives are needed to encourage outstanding men and women to serve.

As far as the benefits being “extraordinarily generous,” I would like to remind Ms. Marcus that she could have received these very same benefits if instead of attending Harvard Law School and pursuing a career at the Washington Post, she visited her local military recruiter and signed the dotted line. Of course, that would have also required her to change geographic locations every two or three years, uproot her children from their schools and friends, frequently separate from her family and risk life and limb in a combat zone.

The attitude of some who complain about military benefits being too generous reminds me of the barkeep who harassed a British soldier in Rudyard Kipling’s “Tommy.”
“For it’s Tommy this, an Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!’
But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot…”


Daniel M. Dellinger
National Commander
The American Legion


  1. Jim, I'm not going to address your cheapshots at our national commander, but the E-7 example was cited by the Military Times as what a newly retired servicemember with 22 years of military service will lose. $100K. Fortunately, the provision has now been corrected by "grandfathering." The Legion will continue to fight for those joining the military in 2014 and those who will serve in future generations.
  2. Why does the head of the American Legion look like a wuss? Why is he lying. There is no way an E-7 will lose $100K by age 62. I'm an E-7 and I'm sick of these union like heads acting just like Republicans- lying their butts off to keep their jobs.
  3. Jim the point is that u do not here any reductions in welfare or food stamps and what other programs that has stole our money. why is it always on the backs of the veterans that reductions take place soo lets focus and lets looke at the real culprit
  4. What does a veteran look like? Instead of attacking the leader of The American Legion about his looks, you should look at what the organization is doing about the issue. A 1% reduction of cola each year compounded over a 20 year period of retirement will hurt all who retire before age 62. The American Legion is working to hold all Democrats and Republicans that support this cut accountable.
  5. Jim, I agree. Most veterans of my generation [Viet Nam era] were not career military. I strongly feel the BEST thing Congress could do for us is to remove the post Civil War limit on attorney compensation. Agencies other than the VA do quite well with court decisions. And any benefit gets approved far faster than letting the VA take its own sweet time handling benefit applications.
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