WASHINGTON — Veterans groups lashed out this week at a proposed overhaul of the military retirement system, vowing to fight any changes that could take money out of current or future retirees’ pockets.
The plan, a recommendation from the Defense Business Board, calls for an end to the all-or-nothing current retirement system, which requires military personnel to serve at least 20 years to receive any benefits. The new proposal would offer partial benefits after 10 years and adopt a system closer to corporate 401(k) retirement plans.
But veterans groups worry that could mean retirees wouldn’t have access to their payouts until after age 65 -- some military retirees now can begin collecting benefits before their 39th birthday -- and could require younger troops to sacrifice part of their paychecks today to receive any benefits later.
In an editorial released Thursday, American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster wrote that his group was “drawing a line in the sand” opposing any plans that reduce retirement pay.
“These are the people who have sacrificed their lives, their bodies, their peace of mind and – in some cases – their hopes and dreams for this nation,” he wrote. “You can’t compare it to a lifetime career as a broker or an insurance salesman. Military service is a high-pressure job that takes a physical and emotional toll.”
Officials at VoteVets.org have collected more than 2,500 signatures for a petition opposing the plan, saying that Pentagon planners who’ve floated the proposal should be “ashamed.”
“We understand that everyone in Washington is tightening their belts,” the petition states. “But we cannot cut the Pentagon budget on the backs of servicemembers.”
In a letter to the 12 “Super Congress” members last week, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Executive Director Robert Wallace didn’t directly address the new retirement proposal, but warned against any veterans benefits cuts.
He wrote that such a plan “breaks a promise to care for and honor our brave military men and women” and added that “we hope you and your staff will take up the daunting task of finding the duplications and inefficiencies that waste government funds before you force more sacrifice on those who have already given so much.”
The Defense Business Board is expected to release its final retirement plan recommendations later this month. But, as columnist Tom Philpott notes, even then the plan may not have much chance of becoming law.