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Vets deserve to keep benefits

Rudyard Kipling, one of the most famous authors from Great Britain, highlighted in his poem “Tommy” that when the nation wages war the soldier is revered but after the war he is shunned. The recent cuts to cost of living adjustments have apparently drawn support from politicians, military leaders and a host of defense pundits who postulate that unless personnel costs are reduced our nation’s military will cease to function. This dire warning seems to echo Kipling’s poem. I suppose the more things change, the more they stay the same. The idea that the nation’s budget woes can be fixed by cutting veterans’ benefits is shameful and not supported by the facts.

The proposals for cuts go beyond reducing the COLA. They include eliminating commissaries, changing the retirement system, raising Tricare premiums and deductibles. There is even talk of making some of the adjustments means-based, meaning if you earn more retirement you pay more for the same benefit. I hope the next time I shop at Wal-Mart they don’t charge me more for bread and milk because I have a higher salary then the person next to me. This idea seems somewhat un-American.

The same military and political leaders who support these cuts often say that less than 1 percent of the American population has volunteered to serve the nation during these troubling times since 9/11. It is hard to fathom how that small percentage of dedicated and faithful volunteers are breaking the budget. I am all for trimming defense spending and even paying a fair rate for certain benefits, but I would strongly suggest first eliminating the waste, fraud and abuse that exist in other government programs.

The fundamental issue is the nation keeping its promises to its veterans. Making adjustments after the fact is not keeping faith with those who have served. I suggest making all the adjustments to personnel costs to those who join the military from this point forward. Clearly outline the benefits in the prospective volunteer’s contract. Then the nation can see if the volunteer force is viable under these new budgetary constraints.

As Kipling so aptly said, “While it’s Tommy this an’ Tommy that an’ Tommy fall be’ind, but it’s please to walk in front, sir when there’s trouble in the wind.” There will be trouble in the wind again. I am thankful for the honor of serving my nation for more than 35 years and greatly appreciate the benefits afforded to me and my family. All veterans want to do our part to ensure we maintain a strong military and reduce the nation’s budget deficit, but our nation can do better than to look to our servicemembers past and present to resolve the budget problems.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon (retired)
Orlando, Fla.

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