Military Retirees Up in Arms over Congressional Plan to Reduce Pensions

Many in the military community are feeling betrayed over the cuts.
By @LesNeuhaus |
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    A 2011 Veteran's Day ceremony in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo/North Charleston via Flickr)

    A 2011 Veteran’s Day ceremony in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo/North Charleston via Flickr)

    A bipartisan congressional vote on Thursday cut pay raises for active troops and military retiree pension plans for those who aren’t disabled and under 62.

    At heart of the military cuts is the new federal budget plan – known as the Ryan-Murray deal after Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, from Washington –is the fact most military retirees are well under 62 years of age. An average military service member will join somewhere in their early 20s, on average, and after serving 20 years, can retire by his or her early 40s, with many years left to potentially work other jobs. They are often referred to as working-age retirees.

    But some advocates for the cuts argue that military retirees receive exceptional benefits compared to civilians, since they serve 20 years on average but receive 30 to 40 years, often, in retirement benefits.

    So in comparison to their private-sector peers, whose retirement pensions tend to be much higher on par than that of a retiring serviceman depending on pay grade and education, military advocates argue any cuts are detrimental. The annual cuts, at one percent less than the rise of inflation, will be taken from the annual cost-of-living increases military members and retirees usually receive.

    Although that may not sound like much, according to a CNN article from Friday, “A 1 percentage point cut could result in much more than a 20 percent cut in retiree pension over the course of 20 years. This means military retirees will, on average, lose between $83,000 and $124,000 each from the pensions they were promised.”

    Obviously, many in the military community are feeling betrayed. Those who spent several tours in wars zones are feeling particularly angered. Many veterans took to social media on Friday upon learning of the news.

    “I really can’t believe it,” Travis Watkins, a retired Air Force serviceman from Texas, told MintPress on Friday. “All those years of doing the right thing and carrying on the noble traditions of my chosen military and Congress rewards that.”

    Watkins also warned those still serving actively to rethink staying in through retirement eligibility.

    “They changed the rules on us – they will do it to them, too,” he said. “I can’t believe I have to say that, but now I owe it to the brothers and sisters I worked with that are still in, look what they think of us. What do you think they will do to you when it’s their turn to retire?”

    Congress is trying to cut overall spending in the Defense Department. According to an article in Military.com on Friday, “the Republican-controlled chamber voted 332-94 to approve the Bipartisan Budget Act. Under the bill, federal agencies such as the DOD would avoid about $62 billion in automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, over two years.

    “Meanwhile, the defense policy bill would reduce troops’ pay raise in 2014 to 1 percent from 1.7 percent this year,” the Military.com piece went on to state. “The change means the average enlisted member would receive a monthly pay increase of $26 instead of $47, according to Pentagon budget documents.”


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