Keep military retirees’ benefits intact

Keep military retirees’ benefits intact

Chances are that if you spent 20 years or more in the military, you either saw combat or directly supported those who did. The commitment required of those who make a career defending the United States is like no other. That is why The American Legion adamantly opposes any plan to reduce or diminish the retirement benefits given to those who have rendered such service.

To be fair, some of the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission would be of benefit to many veterans. For instance, the commission wants to increase collaboration between DoD and VA and expand eligibility for Space Available Travel to include dependents of deployed servicemembers. The commission also envisions a matching Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) that would benefit the majority of servicemembers who serve fewer than 20 years.

Still, it appears as if the cost of these new benefits will be borne mostly by career staff noncommissioned officers and officers, who would see their pensions cut by 20 percent. As Rob Callahan has pointed out at, if a one-term enlistee separated at 22 and his TSP earned 8 percent annually, he would have less than $30,000 at 65. You can imagine how meager that amount would seem in another 43 years.

Callahan also calculates that under the proposed system a retiring E-7 with a spouse and three kids would be below the poverty threshold if the family had to depend solely on retirement income.

This comes on the heels of a law that will cut cost-of-living allowances for future retirees. To quell well-deserved criticism of that action, lawmakers “grandfathered” the cuts so they wouldn’t affect those serving up to that point. But this sends the wrong message. It says to potential recruits that their service will not be valued as much as that of previous generations.

Those who have served for two decades or more have typically had to change geographic locations every two or three years, uproot their children from their schools and friends, expect their spouses to quit and change jobs, endure long separations from their families, and risk life and limb in combat zones. And unlike civilians, they could go to jail for disrespecting a superior or failing to show up for work.

I recognize that 401(k) plans are very common in the private sector. But if you make military benefits too similar to the private sector, don’t be surprised if the best and brightest choose that.

These are just proposals and not yet law. When the commission released its recommendations on Jan. 29, it stated, “Our all-volunteer force is without peer. This fact has been proven during the last 42 years and decisively reinforced during the last 13 years of war. It is our obligation to ensure the services have the proper resources to support our servicemembers.”


On that point, at least, the Legion wholeheartedly agrees.