Military benefits could face the chopping block

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By Michael Schindler

This past weekend I had the honor and privilege of spending time with the National Association of State Directors of Veteran’s Affairs. These men and women are dedicated to ensuring that our veterans and their families receive the benefits and services owed to them – but no matter their dedication, if funds get cut there isn’t much they can do about it.

As Washington looks to squeeze savings from entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, another program — the health and pension benefits of military retirees — is growing rapidly; this makes it a prime target for cuts.

Military pensions and health care for active and retired troops now cost the government about $100 billion a year, representing an expanding portion of both the Pentagon budget and the national debt, which together finance the programs.

A recent New York Times article called military health and pension benefits a social welfare program – which is far from accurate. Those who have served, and certainly those who are paying attention, know that military health care and retirement benefits are earned. Often our service members will sacrifice pay, knowing that they will be compensated through benefits. The deal could change.

The intense push in Congress this year to reduce the debt has suddenly made retiree benefits vulnerable. The question is, should these cuts go through, will it make our country more vulnerable?

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. The cuts should go through. As a veteran, receiving these benefits, it isn’t fair to expect to continue to receive them at levels calculated during boom times, when the tax paying public has had the economic rug pulled out from under them.

    The one argument I have no patience for is that military pay and benefits are special, and must be protected. That is BS, as it short changes the vast majority of our working citizens as they faithfully execute their jobs, and raise their families. To set aside special categories of benefits is the definition of a social welfare program.

    A better way to approach this, in my opinion, would be to drastically reduce military obligations overseas, reduce troop strength, and eliminate costly contractor support for service jobs formerly handled by active duty. This way, pay and benefits can continue to recruit and retain the best, while wasting the least.

  2. This is what happens when we start wars and never figure out a way to pay for them.

    If I could go back and amend the Constitution, I’d require ⅔ of both Houses of Congress to start a war, and an annual vote of ⅔ to continue one. In addition, those annual votes would have to include a means of paying for the war that doesn’t add to the deficit. The costs of the war should include the enormous cost of healing the injuries of our soldiers.

    So now the debate seems to be which of three groups should pay for these mistakes: the soldiers, retirees, or the poor. Actually, so far the consensus is that our children will pay. Someday.

  3. Todd, you are out of it! These benefits you want to cut, “WERE GUARANTEED BY THIS GOVERMENT” if we put our youth and lives on the line for this COUNTRY! Just because we were not killed, we somehow “NOW” don’t deserve what was promised just because 535 rich jerks that voted themselves massive benefits and don’t pay into Social Securtiy or have to use the the OBAMANATION Medical plan.
    Sorry Todd, but right now the Vietnam Vets Memorial is here in Santa Barbara, and I can’t bring myself to visit it, as seeing over 50 THOUSAND names of those who gave so much, so someone can sit around and tell us we don’t deserve our PROMISED benefits because someone else wants to give them to someone who did not earn them just makes me glad I won’t be around to see the fall of this great country. GOOD LUCK RAISING A MILITARY in the FUTURE!!!!! It makes me sick to see commercials asking for $19.95 a month to help our present military deal with their injuries and now foresaken by this GREAT AMERICAN DREAM!!

  4. I have no problem with the benefits that vets receive. However, they should have to wait until retirement age to get them. If you retire from the army at age 40 and receive retirement benefits immediately, you could actually collect from the federal government for 40 years. The rest of us put in 20, 30 or more years with a company and we have to wait until retirement age to collect. I think this concept could be a good starting point.

  5. I am a Vietnam Veteran; a Combat Veteran; a disabled Vietnam Combat Veteran. I enlisted when it was unpopular to do so. I suffered the personal attacks from “radicals” when I came home and from college professors while in Air Force ROTC. After a training accident, I was retired on disability. Now speaking for myself, I didn’t join the Military for “the perks”. Somehow when you have a whole army of people trying to kill you that is not exactly what I would call a “benefit”. Being disabled is not a “perk”; it’s a major inconvenience. Yet had I the opportunity to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love America, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. I love the fact the United States of America is THE shining light on the hill as President Ronald Reagan so eloquently called her. For 235 years it has been the American Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine who has defended ALL Americans; even those who detest and hate Her. Maybe the “new york times” (lower case intentional throughout (lcit)) should consider changing their name to, say, the “new bolshevik times”. God only knows the treasonous acts committed throughout the War on Terror with releasing sensitive information that endangered our Military fighting said war. Maybe with vladimir “vlad the impaler” putin’s return to office as “president of russia”, the “new bolshevik times” should consider relocating to moscow russia? They have a readymade audience and would be accepted by the reincarnation of joseph stalin. That’s just one Proud American Veteran’s opinion.

  6. Henry Duncan;
    – I think we’re talking about different benefits. As a recently retired military officer, I am intimately familiar with all of the benefits. I sense from your lack of specifics, and rant about unrelated topics, that you are not.
    – If you take the time break down how the process of adjusting benefit amounts and programs work, you’d know that these changes are not retroactive. If you are a Vietnam Vet, your benefits are minimal compared to today’s force, and not in danger from cuts.

    The current programs, for people currently in the military and looking at retirement, are too generous. The argument that “no cost is too high to pay for what these folks have done” is a fig leaf behind which people hide when they have no real basis for their argument. The question isn’t “should we cut because we can?”, but rather, “what is the right plan, so that we don’t further bankrupt the nation, while retaining a top quality force?”
    There is no place in such discussions for wide-eyed spewing of ideology, either on the left or the right. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods here. I could go on to specifically refute 80% of everything else you said, but those points have no place in this discussion.

    What is the right balance of pay and benefits to keep our force strong, while also stewarding our resources? “MORE” is not an intelligent answer, and does not a great country make.

  7. Todd Cloutier; Well now we know why you think the people in the military looking at retirement, the benefits are too generous. You are a retired officer. Our leaders know what is best for all the rest of the military. You sound just like a Marine officer i knew talking down to us lower Marines of the enlisted class. The Military should get as much or more than what we pay Congress or what we spend on welfare to people who are in this country Illegally. Cut their benefits. Go some place else to cut. Your way of thinking is way out of line with the rest of the country. And Todd I have not beeb in the Military in a long time.I will retire in a few years at 66. I stand with Henry on this just like most folks.

  8. One of my brother is retired from the Army and had served in Vietnam. During that time, war time, the soldiers were expected to be tough and expected to do things that could be reasonably expected to cause injuries to them. Going to sick call was frowned upon so many didn’t when they had injuries, my brother included, so their injuries were not recorded. Now those injuries are causing complications in their lives but because they weren’t properly recorded, the government refuses to recognize them. In war time when soldiers are drafted, my brother wasn’t, the soldiers don’t have a choice on whether to “serve” or not. So when they are told a particular benefit is going to be waiting for them when they get home, it should darn well be there.

    Also, for anyone that serves in the military for 20 years or over, they also deserve to have good benefits. Many get sent to places that aren’t very nice on regularly scheduled deployments and this deserves compensation. Sure, you can say that the soldiers know this is going to happen, but they don’t really know when they are young and enlisting.

    If a soldier gets injured or maimed, I cannot see how anyone can say that their benefits or care should be reduced. How pathetic would we be?

    Now, I have seen my brother’s benefits be decreased in the last few years. I wonder how much of a retirement benefit people think military retirees should get. Should they be able to support themselves on just their retirement check? I can tell you that a non-commissioned officer cannot. And then to have their benefits reduced, well, it isn’t so great to have served for a long time.

  9. Regardless of rank, pay is often supplemented by the promise of future benefits. Todd, you and I both know that the lifestyle of a service member is much different than most civilian jobs – the 8 – 5 day doesn’t apply, home every night doesn’t apply, hazardous situations often do apply, and once we sign the contract, we are committed…unlike our civilian counterparts who can leave a job they may not like…with all do respect, i think you missed the mark on this one Todd. We’ll have to settle this one over coffee my friend.

  10. hey Todd I got nothing bad to say about anybody who is in the service past present or in the future. With that being said I do not know much about what kind of retirement military people get. But i do know this there a lot of kids getting all messed up for life in the military right now, so I say take care of the kids. As far as the wars go well I’m with you I wish they were over, I think that alone would help a lot .

  11. The interesting thing from all of the comments above is that nobody is arguing specifics, just saying that more benefits are better, and anyone who opposes “MORE” is “against the troops”. That math doesn’t match reality. Yes, we MUST take care of our separating and retiring members (by the way, I was enlisted first, so stop with the class warfare, shipmate).

    Nobody above mentioned a specific example of an unfair proposed cut – because they haven’t taken the time to read the details. It is a vacant argument to start waving Old Glory and proclaim that anyone who questions whether cuts could or should occur is anti-military, or anti-American. Hot air and jingoism don’t produce funding, and we simply don’t have infinite money.

    Bring on the specifics; I am ready, willing and able to discuss them. But if anyone challenges my patriotism or dedication to the troops still in the field just because I don’t believe in blank checks, I’ve got about a dozen years away from my family I’d like to trade with you.

    Let me ask one question:
    – What proposed changes to benefits and pay do you oppose?

  12. Interestingly, everyone dog piled on Todd without reading his initial statement which included this:

    “A better way to approach this, in my opinion, would be to drastically reduce military obligations overseas, reduce troop strength, and eliminate costly contractor support for service jobs formerly handled by active duty. This way, pay and benefits can continue to recruit and retain the best, while wasting the least.”

    I whole heartily agree with that. How about looking at this issue on a logical basis instead of a emotional basis.

    Oh, and BTW, as Todd’s ex-wife, the one who supported his family and his career for 3 months short of 20 years, let me tell you that he has earned every right to speak on this issue. What Todd will not tell you is that he start out as an enlisted guy and worked his way through college and up the ranks. When he retired, we did some math and figured out that he was actually home for about 8 years of our married life. He forfeited seeing his older son grow up and was deployed soon after his younger son was born prematurely and his wife still sick from complications.

    So, for those of you who want to attack his patriotism, need to cut it out right now! He gets it!

  13. This is further proof that the Obama administration, and all Democrats in general, are determined to destroy our ability to defend ourselves in the world. While Obama plays golf and vacations umpteen times on the taxpayer’s dime, the very same people he sends overseas to protect his crappy butt are considered welfare recipients while risking their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. There is a famous war movie of the Korean War where pilots on an American aircraft carrier take off to try to destroy a heavily defended bridge. The CO of the ship says, “Where do we find such men?” Well, if Obama has his way, we won’t be able to much longer.

  14. So let me ask everybody this. During the last national election 3 years ago how many people thought that we would still have 2 wars going on and the economy would be worse. As far as Im corcerned this administration has been a big dissappointment. Todds ideas are probably right on, one thing I like about Todd He has a pretty open mind about everything

  15. Todd – I’m well-versed in the proposed cuts but no real point in arguing the specifics – we’ll all have to wait and see if they even make it to the table. There are other items that may make it more drastic if certain things don’t happen by Thanksgiving – severe troop reductions and benefit cuts are part of those proposed changes. I don’t question your patriotism – you are solid there my friend. I question the retroactive change to benefits that are being proposed. I would propose that our Congressmen take the hit in their retirements before those who serve on the frontlines…

  16. Mike- concur that the retroactive cuts are unwise, at least as first steps. As for the congressional benefits, it always sounds good, but it is merely symbolic. There are 535 of them, and over a million military. Cuts to congress would close no gaps, but would certainly show some symbolic solidarity.

    In a country where it has become poor taste to suggest that perhaps the rich pay more taxes, and where our love affair with armed force has swelled the DOD to such unwieldy heights, ther must necessarily be cuts. And they must be big to be meaningful. Now, if those millionaires paid more than 15% on their capital gains, say, then we would have more breathing room. But the current political hacks have put that solution out of reach.

  17. People shouldn’t be so quick to condemn the 15% capital gains tax as being too low, for at least a couple of reasons. First of all it is double taxation, since income tax has already been paid on the money that’s invested. Secondly, individuals cannot carry loses backwards – you may have had significant loses this year, but you cannot offset gains made in a prior year to get a refund; a business can do that. Another factor that I’ve never seen quantified is that high capital gains taxes cause a reluctance to realize those gains.

    I guess that some will always believe that no matter how much tax the wealthier pay, it’s not enough as long as the government needs more revenue to cover excessive spending.

  18. Ron, the wealthy won the class wars a long time ago. It wouldn’t bother me so much if they’d just stop complaining.

  19. Todd, For someone that normally takes great pains to research and analyze subjects I find it odd that you would believe that changing the capital gains tax or even doubling the taxes paid by those individuals with incomes (regardless of source) will make one iota of difference in our debt or deficit.

    I agree that there are significant cuts that can be made to the defense budget and to the budgets of about 95% of all Federal Government departments. e have excluded so many people from having to pay taxes and have included a significant group that receive tax refunds and pay no taxes that those of us that actually work and pay our taxes can’t support them.

    Added to that, the change of the mind set in this country of Government has to solve all my problems and you now have an entitlement mentality drives much of the spending increases we are now forced to pay for by adding debt. there is not a government on the planet that can create 1 job more cost effectively than the private sector, but our politicians, regardless of party affiliation, need to make the people believe that they are dependent upon the government to increase the level of power they wield.

    My philosophy is that the 3 biggest problems facing the citizens of the United States today are; 1. Republican Party, 2. Democratic Party, 3. Lawyers. All three of these have a huge impact on the cost of everything we buy, businesses are run and the fact that we have lost our sense of personal responsibility.

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