On Friday my Facebook page held a “share” from a friend and since it was Memorial Day weekend that “share” was bad news about the military. Obama has gone and done it again. He wants to cut military pay and privatize military pensions. Bad Obama! I looked it up and although the suggestions come from his administration Obama really is planning to do something like this. As he explains it this has something to do with having an all-volunteer army. Perhaps the government does not owe volunteers in the same way that it owes draftees. After all, these soldiers, sailors, fliers, etc. had a choice to join or not join. I not sure most Americans feel this way but perhaps if we hear all the pros and cons it will make some sense. I did not find the other side of this debate in my internet search.
I did find some sources in addition to the one that appeared on Facebook (from the Military Times) that made these proposals seem a little less inhumane. We like to treat our soldier well. We are grateful to them for all of the risks they take on our behalf, life and death risks in many cases. We want their families to live comfortably while their partners are gone and we want our soldier to live well when they come back.
We do not guarantee employment to soldiers in civilian positions however. They must make the transition on their own, often while suffering PTSD and bodily injuries they need to adjust to. We already know that the VA is overtaxed and that soldiers do not always get the medical or psychological treatment they need. Now we learn that Obama (his reasons as stated in these articles are not at all clear or complete) is apparently about to screw over our valiant soldiers. He wants to take out part of their pay and invest it for them in a 401K. There are also proposals to give only very small raises and a proposal that makes changes in the prescription programs that increase costs.
The second article in the short list below suggests that as it stands right now pensions only go to soldiers who stay in the service for 20 years and that this includes only 17% of soldiers, so 83% of service men/women do not get any pension at all right now, but would under the new proposals.
All over America, governments big and small are trying to divest themselves of pension responsibilities that are crushing budgets. This is a devastating state of affairs. We mourned when factory workers lost their pensions. Now we will apparently mourn as public employees lose theirs. Can we do that to our soldiers? What if you have to choose, your pension or theirs? These articles are 2 years old. Have these proposals already been adopted? I did not find information to suggest that these rules have been accepted and are in use yet. In fact the first link below is from March 2015 and these proposals had not been adopted at that time.
I suspect we will be hearing more about these matters, although things do get slipped by us in very tricky ways because we don’t pay careful attention to boring Congressional business, only the bits that involve some political circus.
What I really don’t understand is why we often cut back money dedicated to people rather than cutting back funding dedicated to things. We always hear that the military is ordering very expensive jets that don’t work. Why don’t we ever cut those kinds of bad expenditures? How do jets prone to accidents help us win wars? The mind boggles…
The changes to military retirement would for the first time offer a retirement benefit to troops who serve less than 20 years. The Defense Department would offer to match troops’ own retirement savings up to 5 percent of basic pay. Troops would own that investment account regardless of when they leave the military.
The proposal would also give troops who reach 12 years of service a lump-sum retention bonus in exchange for a new four-year service commitment. The amount would likely vary by service and career field.
Many troops do not put in 20 years of service and do not receive much, if anything, in the way of a retirement benefit. “About 83 percent leave with absolutely nothing,” Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told USA Today. “That’s especially true when you think about the people who have actually been fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Carter is also considering easing some of the enlistment standards in certain areas of the military, such as cyber and high-tech positions.
This article from April, 2013 gives the most detailed look at the proposed budget plan and I must admit I doubt it will please you if you read the whole thing.
Perhaps it is time to write our Congressmen and women.
By Nancy Brisson