Military Retirement Changes

July 27, 2011 By
Posted in Military News

According to the Star and Stripes, military members may no longer be able to receive retirements after 20 years of service. This move is in response to the government’s inability to balance its budget and the mandate to shave $400 billion from the defense budget.

The plan calls for a corporate-style benefits program that would contribute money to troops’ retirement savings account rather than the promise of a future monthly pension, according to a new proposal from an influential Pentagon advisory board.

The yearly contributions might amount to about 16.5 percent of a member’s annual pay and would be deposited into a mandatory version of the Thrift Savings Plan, the military’s existing 401(k)-style account that now does not include government matching contributions, according to the Times.

While I’m in favor of Soldiers being able to contribute to a pension plan, using benefits of troops dying and losing limbs for their country isn’t the way to begin the cost-cutting discussion. There is already so many rules and regulations that prevent the military from saving money on simple purchases like daily supplies. Supply NCOs are unable to shop around for the best price on paper, pens, cords, CD-Rs, etc. Instead, regulations require us to spend upwards of 150% more on a product from an “approved” source, usually the Lighthouse for the Blind.

A perfect example of this is CD-R. The cheapest price my supply sergeant will pay for a spindle of 100 CD-R (silver top, no branding) is about $33. If I went down to the local Staples, I could get the exact same thing for $12.99. By law, I have to pay $254% more for the same product. This happens all over. We pay $.27 for a pencil we can get for a penny. We pay $39.99 for a 4GB thumb drive we can get for $5.99.

This isn’t a military phenomenon. It’s a federal government phenomenon. By law, the United States taxpayer pays 2,3,4 times more for virtually everything it buys. For software and equipment fielding, we are required to use small businesses. We can’t go to Apple, Google, HP, etc with a list of requirements for running a TOC and ask them to create something. We’re spending billions of dollars on the DCGS-A platform that is meant to accrue intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and provide real-time battlefield analysis and the current location of high-value targets. We’ve spend $2.7 billion on this system AND IT DOESN’T WORK like it’s supposed to.

If we really want to save money in the defense budget, we need to stop wasting money on military contracts that cost millions and billions more than necessary. I don’t even want to know how much could be saved if we reverted the protection of our military bases back into military hands. Currently, most military bases use contractors to serve a security personnel manning the gates and patrolling the streets. While many of these people are former military themselves, I’m sure the cost is much greater than putting some Soldiers at those gates. I like to think that a Soldier would take greater interest in protecting their base.

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m all about finding ways to save taxpayers money. And, to an extent, I have no problem with Soldiers pitching in a little financially to pay for their retirements. In our business, which is unlike any other business within the federal government, we are called up on to kill or be killed. The job hazards cannot be matched in the civilian world or any other federal agency. For that reason alone, I oppose completely getting rid of the retirement system.

20 years is a lot of time to commit to dangerous work. In most professions, 20 years would come and go and wouldn’t seem like much. It’s like Groundhog Day. There’s no blood, sweat or tears that “paid” for that retirement. Not so with our troops. I would use this same argument for the nation’s police forces. After 20 years of putting your life on the line, these guys deserve a retirement.

Of course, this idea to make Soldiers pay for their retirement isn’t a new one resulting from the budget problems the federal government currently faces. This was the plan of the current administration from day 1. After taking office, President Obama angered veterans groups by pushing to charge private insurers for service-related injuries or disabilities. I even specifically asked about this misguided policy when I and a few other milbloggers met with members of his cabinet in the Roosevelt Room back in March 2009. Of course, I magically received an IG complaint from DA shortly after that in which complaints were made about comments I wrote on my blog.

Let me leave you with some words from President Lincoln’s second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

The fundamentals of that statement haven’t changed, especially considering that our troops are still fighting two wars, with some coming home in boxes on a daily basis. Now to be fair, I don’t think it would be uhfair to ask troops to pay about 5% into their retirement accounts. That would give us some “skin in the game.” But, I’ll tell you what. Treating MILITARY pay this way should be the LAST option for the federal government. Start with Congress first, move through the other federal agencies, THEN start charging those who sacrifice so much for their country!

15 Responses to Military Retirement Changes

  1. I think this is an insult to our Armed serves. Just like some of the pros and cons listed in this news clipping. Most job you do not get shoot at, killed or loose a limb or put up with all the stresses of being deployed. Also a military family member, there life has changed with the service member. Some family members can not get or keep a good job with all the moving involved military life and PCS-ing. The military member, might be the family’s sole source of income. So if that person is killed or injured, now the family will suffer as well?….. Las time I checked we are still at WAR! You cut our military benifits and 20 retirement plan. I think a lot of military personnel will leave our US military services.

    Chief US Navy

  2. Congress needs to look at their own pension plan — now there is a scam! They don’t even have to serve in office 20 years and they are entitled to a pension! In addition, check out their salaries and raises over the past decade or so. Our lobbyists (FRA, etc.) need to hit congress hard and raise the red flag on this one.

  3. For the last 10 years of combat deployments, the 20 year retirement was used as a carrot to keep Soldiers in the service despite years spent away from home, extreme physical hardship, and the psychological terrors of war. Now that things are winding down and drawdowns are taking place (made possible by our blood, sweat and tears), our leaders want to flip the script. Suddently, the 20 year retirement is “far too generous”…funny, it didn’t seem too generous while serving any of my three deployments. In fact, it seemed about right when times were at their worst. Now the very government who made these promises wants to retract them, and why not? They got what they needed, right? Well thanks for taking care of those who took care of you, you back-stabbing a-holes.

  4. Every military member needs to fight this. Not everyone came in the service at age 18 to retire at 38 to live up to 90 years old. I will hit my active duty 20 years in my 50s. Changing my retirement plan is a breach of contract and a slap to all the years I have been deployed in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Who are these idiots proposing these changes? Ex-vets who are jealous that they did not serve 20 years and want to screw all of us? Trying to get to manage a huge fund for their benefit? Giving vested plans to everyone is not right. Soldiers that serve a hitch can currently save in a IRA or use the TSP and gain retirement savings that they can rollover. We already got screwed with the high 3 changes. Yea, the idiot said the program was unfair, unaffordable and inflexible. Unfair to them, unaffordable because the government cannot manage spending and spends billions in wars that should have ended years ago and inflexible to who? Let the service members decide on these changes which they wont approve.

  5. Cindy Stein Army Wife

    Let’s give our money to Wall Street!!!! Not. My retirement, that I started 20 years ago has hardly moved for the last 12years–Yes, 12 years!!! These people throw you a line of shit when they say ” Oh, if you put 300,000 in good solid investment, you will have 1.5 million at retirement.” That line of thinking does not hold water anymore. I was sick to my stomoch when I heard what they are trying to do with our hard earned retirement. My husband is in Afghanistan and I just emailed him that it is time to jump ship. No one gives two cents about soldiers until they are needed for some crises and I have had enough. 21 years of deployments, weekend duty, no home equity, stress, raising children by myself and no familly. Thanks to all you people in government. I am sure you will go to sleep tonight in your big homes and salavate over your inflated salaries and think you just did something good for the country–then wake up and keeep spending like drunken sailors–who now, by the way are drunk because they have no money!!!

  6. As a SSG currently serving in the Army, I agree with Kevin’s response and can already tell you that most active duty members I serve with are discussing the idea of getting the hell out. Using myself as an example: I am the sole source of income in my household and because of the 5 moves I’ve made in the last 8 years, my wife has a very difficult time trying to find a “good” job each time. Add to that the raising of our children while I am working 15-17 hour days and you can see where the frustration is coming from. I could go on and on, but it would be pointless. I, as well as most of my buddies, hope this proposal is stamped right out of existence before our all-volunteer Army witnesses the exodus of it’s trained personnel to civilian life!

  7. Darrell J. Coates

    Throughout my 22 years of service there was always some scuttlebutt about ending retirement as it now exists. I have always found that to be comical for several reasons. First off, which of the brain dead legislators that dreamed this up will be answering the legal challenges? The Washington nitwits are so used to walking over servicemen and women that they can’t even invision a fight here. When the smoke clears, you will find the only legal recourse you have is to grandfather anyone currently serving, which won’t save you a dime. Of course, you can notify all of your recruiters to stop promoting the twenty year retirement to lure prospective recruits. Now, all they’ll have to entice new recruits in will be the wonderful and friendly life of an E1 in the Army, Navy or Marine Corp. Of course there will always be the snappy uniforms and protracted time away from loved ones in garden spots like Korea or the Azors to attract them. But then, you’ll have to play down the very real possibility of dying because it’s not the legislators or their bought and paid for Generals that are pulling tours on the front lines, it’s the rank and file, the kids rattling the dice and hoping for a twenty year pay off instead of ‘Snake Eyes’ on the enlistment roll.
    Yeah, don’t worry about it. Go ahead and snatch the retirement away from the servicemen and women you promised it to. They won’t mind. They’re just here because of their blind patriotism and love of country anyway. They’ll stick around even after finding out the country they love could care less about them or their sacrifice. The military sat back as Obama raided our econemy and bought himself another 4 years in office. Now he’s trying to backfill that mistake on the backs of servicemen and women. Sure, they can’t argue or say anything. They can grumble but they have no real power. Yeah, you buttwads in Washington keep on beliving that. You are about to see the largest exodus from the military in its history and boys and girls, you can’t do a damn thing about it. You got nothing to offer. Sure, you can wave the flag and beg for loyalty and patriotism but it won’t work. WHY? Because about every working U.S Citizen is earning far more than the average grunt. These people have families too, and bills and hopes and dreams of a future. Stomp on that dream and then call for active duty volunteers, I dare you.
    How many of our politicians have thanked us for our service over the years? Yeah, this is the real thanks we get.
    Thanks but no thanks.

    • Darrell,
      Pretty well said. If they are serious about pushing retirement back to age 60, most members will get out. After I finish my tour, I want out. I been in for 22 years and change too. There are other areas to cut back funding before even considering Armed Forces. If the dirty dozen (super-committee) pushes forth, then they’ll need the draft and stop-loss to make up the difference for retention.

  8. I had been considering reenlisting or going officer. If these changes go through there is little chance of that happening. Sorry, but you’ll have to find some other person with a top secret clearance to spend 3 years training to operate millions of dollars worth of equipment. If you want my training and skills to benefit you, I’d better be able to look forward to more than average wages while I’m in and a measly lump sum when I get out. Especially when you consider that civilian contractors in my job field get paid around twice what I get.

  9. I have talked to many Soldiers, NCO’s and fellow Officers and one of the big concerns is our contract. Every Soldier today signed a contract with the US Army with an agreement for a retirement at 20 years. If the government can make this change and turn around and tell the Soldiers to just deal with it, then what is next. What else will they change in our contract and then turn around and say we are the government deal with it, what’s the point of the contract.

    The proposal mentions several times a comparison between the Military and the Civilian work force. Well, show me a Civilian job in which the worker is gone training for up to 3 to 6 months total throughout the year and then when complete with training deploys for up to a year, not to mention during that year deployment there is a large group of people trying as hard as they can to kill you. Then God willing the member makes it home after the deployment, and 70% of the time must pack up his/her family and move them somewhere else. The constant PCS moves every two to three years for a Soldier is extremely hard on the family, the children must move schools and make new friends, the spouse must attempt to find a new job which in itself is difficult due to the employer knowing he or she will be leaving within two to three years. This type of constant movement for the Service member makes it almost impossible for a spouse to generate any type of retirement.

    A Service member after 20 years of service is most of the time completely broken, they have bad knees, backs, ankles and hearing loss to mention a few. All of these problems are due to 20 years of dealing with Combat, explosions, shooting weapons, foot marches, jumping out of airplanes, and daily running and other physical activities. After a 20 year Service obligation the average 40 year old Soldiers body is worn down and more closely related to a 65 year old Civilian.

    The proposal makes a statement that a Soldier E-1 thru E-4 under the new plan can make up to $20,000 if they invest 16.5% of their pay for four years. I have been a Company Commander for 33 months and I do not know one E-1 thru E-4 who can afford to deposit 16.5% of their pay and still be able to survive financially. The proposal also states that the old plan is unfair to all who do not retire because they receive nothing. Like I said earlier all Soldiers voluntarily sign a contract and understand what they are getting into. But, when it comes down to it, a Soldier receives many things, the Soldier receives to mention a few, discipline, an understanding of self worth, team work, equal opportunity training, sexual harassment training, job experience, respect from the community, credibility from civilian companies, and the military GI Bill for future education. Any person who joins the military and leaves under honorable conditions, leaves as a better person and will be a great contributor to the Civilian community and work force.

    To say that anyone leaving the military before 20 years gets nothing is not only wrong but an uneducated statement. The US Service member is a Professional and the 20 year retirement is not just deserved but owed due to the contract we signed. A professional athlete provides entertainment to the public and they make millions, a Service member is a professional and provides protection and freedom to the public and we make pennies but we do not complain. If they take away our retirement they take away any incentive for the career Soldier to stay and they take away what all Service members have worked for, planned for, fought for, and many others have died for. Why would anyone join the Military as a Career when they can join a safer Civilian job with the same benefits? The US Armed Forces is 1% of the US population, I’m sure we can find, and save, several Trillion dollars if we tap into the other 99% who earned their freedom thru the Military’s sacrifice.

  10. Darrell J, Coates

    A nation of citizens that would go along with the outright theft of retirements earned by servicemen and women doesn’t deserve the further sacrifice of those ssame people. A nation such as this will have few if any choices when our committments are not met and our ships rot in port. You can bet the legislators will mealy mouth and beg you to retiurn … it was all just a misunderstanding. Of course you can have your retirements, just don’t leave us all high and dry… Until next time. A nation that will lie to you and steal food out of the mouths of your children doesn’t deserve your sacrifice. Don’t think they can’t snatch your benifits boys and girls. I was 22 years in and merrily attending college after retirement when they snatched my GI bill away. They said I waited to long to use it. Little buttwads that couldn’t make it through bootcamp managed to get their GI bill, but a 22 year Vietnam vet, married and raising three children at home had his snatched away. Don’t expect a fair deal unless you’re ready to fight back. Those belly crawling maggots in Congress all have their retirements and cars and per diem and you can believe your situation is not high on their list of priorities. Enough of you stand your ground and don’t re-up, don’t enlist, and see what happens…

  11. The problem lay with the voters and not Congress. Congress is a mirror of a far larger disease that has infected our public domain – laziness.

    We lost much more when we eliminated the draft than we gained. Rome had the same problem when the citizens received a larger share of the booty from conquests than the legionnaire in the field did. Maybe the average citizen makes a poor solider, but not ever having to serve one’s country makes a far poorer citizen than a poorer soldier.

    Time to make everyone feel some of the sacrifice, pain and financial anguish including our beloved politicians and especially their families or loved ones.

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