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Old 08-18-2010, 08:35 PM
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Angry Civilian Board Decides Troops Don’t Deserve Retirement

Civilian Board Decides Troops Don’t Deserve Retirement

posted at 9:48 pm on August 18, 2010 by Cassy Fiano

I came across this article at Stars and Stripes via CJ Grisham, who is understandably angry — as am I. One would think that after putting up with 20 years of arguably the hardest job one could take on that veterans would have damn well earned their pensions. But oh no, say the civilians, who I’m sure understand fully all of the hardships of the job. We need to take the “lucrative” pensions away.
The military retirement system is unsustainable and in dire need of repair, according to an influential Pentagon advisory board.

The Defense Business Board — tasked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to find ways to reduce the DOD budget — says annual Treasury Department payments into the system will balloon from $47.7 billion this year to $59.3 billion by 2020.

The 25-member group of civilian business leaders suggests that the Defense Department look at changing the current system, even hinting at raising the number of years troops must serve before being eligible for retirement pay.

The current system “encourages our military to leave at 20 years when they are most productive and experienced, and then pays them and their families and their survivors for another 40 years,” committee chairman Arnold Punaro told board members at their quarterly meeting late last month.
First of all, you don’t get a full pension at 20 years. You get a half pension. So really, if you’re only looking for that quick, easy retirement money, you would actually need to serve another ten years to get a full pension. Oh, wait a second, you don’t get full pension! The most you can get is 75% of your base pay. My bad!

Meanwhile, the answer — according to “experts” — is to get rid of the unsustainable retirement benefits and just give troops more benefits when they enlist! Well, let me tell you something, we have plenty of benefits in the military. We don’t need more benefits. (And no, that doesn’t mean start cutting military benefits. Those benefits are there to make up for the terrible pay and the hardships of the job.) That’s why troops deserve their pensions after 20 years. And I can tell you, they aren’t lucrative by any means My husband is an enlisted Marine looking to make a career out of it. He’s considering transitioning to a commissioned officer and even with an officer’s salary, a half pension after 20 years wouldn’t be much.

So here’s a few questions for this board of “civilian business leaders”, who probably can’t even comprehend the stresses of military life. Have they ever had to endure months, even years, away from their families while they are putting themselves in danger day after day? Have they ever had to know what it is like, every night, to think that the next day might be your last? Have they ever had to uproot their families every few years and move across the country — or even the world? No, they probably haven’t.

I doubt any of them can comprehend the stresses of military life. Even when you’re at home, you work long hours. You have to stand duty so some nights you won’t come home. There’s constant training so sometimes, even when you aren’t deployed, you’re gone for weeks or months at a time. I can’t stand hearing civilians whine about being away from their families for a week or two for a business trip. They have no idea how lucky they have it. They have no idea what it’s like to deploy to a war zone and leave your family behind.

Take my husband, for example. He’s deployed to Iraq twice. He’s currently deployed to Afghanistan. He had a tough time getting ready for this deployment because I am currently pregnant. He worried every day — and probably still worries — about leaving his wife a widow and his future child fatherless. He’s got to go to Afghanistan to fight an enemy just desperate to kill him and every other one of the Marines he’s deployed with. They’ve got to worry about snipers, IEDs, mortars, RPGs, and God knows what else. On top of that, the living conditions there are awful. They don’t even have showers! Literally — they have to bathe with baby wipes. Laundry consists of laundry soap and a dirty bucket. There’s no internet access and phone calls are rare. Considering my husband wants to make a career out of the Marine Corps, it’s unlikely that this will be his last deployment, either.

And on the family end? You worry every day that you don’t hear from them that something’s happened to them. You worry about how you’re going to pay the bills by yourself. You worry about your kids, who cry at night wanting to know where Daddy is, because they’re too young to understand. You worry about finding a new job when you’re forced to quit because you’ve got to move across the country… again. You worry about your kids adjusting to a new school and whether or not they’ll make new friends.

Military life is not easy. We earn that retirement.

And for my husband — and thousands of other service members — that half pension is the light at the end of the tunnel. Why go through such hell, such stress, if that is taken away? Take away retirement for troops, and you’ll be seeing considerably less career service members. What would be the point? Only the most motivated troops would stay in without the promise of retirement. Some people might say that’s a good thing, but there’s a problem — our troops are already overworked as it is. We have basically the same group of soldiers and Marines deploying to the Middle East over and over and over again. We need to be growing the ranks, not shrinking them. Getting rid of retirement would result in a lot more troops doing the four-years-and-I’m-done deal.

If the government is really worried about where we’ll get the money to pay for it, maybe we could cut some money from the billions we waste in pointless social programs. Hey, we pay Planned Parenthood millions a year — over $300 million a year, actually. That money certainly could go to better use.

Or here’s a better idea. Why don’t we cut the bloated congressional pension plans? Our troops certainly deserve better retirement plans than they do. After all, our troops actually earn it. What do politicians do to earn such gold-plated retirement plans? Yet somehow, I doubt that these civilian business leaders have such a problem with Congress, though.

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