"For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren't nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. But we know that for too long, we've fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't receive the support that they've earned." - President Barack Obama, March 19, 2009
Active duty military personnel and veterans have not been treated well this year by our government. First, there was the fiasco concerning the loss of death benefits by the families of five deceased military personnel – which was “fixed” later. Then the October government shutdown in resulted in a startling headline, “5 million will lose veterans' benefits next month if shutdown stretches to November”. This was also “fixed” later.
Now they’re faced with the “Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Bill” (subtitled “The Path To Prosperity: A Blueprint For American Renewal”) that has reduced their retirement benefits by a whopping 67% via a reduction from 1.5 % to 0.5% in their traditional cost of living adjustment (COLA).
This means typical enlisted military retirees will “lose between $83,000 and $124,000 each from the pensions they were promised.” Now a bill is now in the works to fix this one too.
Two active duty military personnel have perspectives on this issue. A navigator (Major, USAF) currently stationed in Florida said,
“The terms of this bill uniquely punish average, middle-ranking military personnel who serve honorable careers in the military.“
And a helicopter maintenance technician (Staff Sgt, Army) stationed in Alaska said,
“I worked my rear end off for what I thought I was supposed to get. Turns out I just worked for some crumbs.”
Veterans are now expressing dim views of possible future government actions affecting the pocketbook of veterans. One Austin resident, an pilot in the Vietnam War (Lt. Col., Air Force, Ret.) said,
“I do believe that a lot more American citizens are going to see less in their stockings" in the future.”
A disabled and disgruntled Vietnam veteran (Lt. Col, Army, Ret.) from Alabama commented,
“Our military personnel readily entered into a contract with the federal government and we were forced by law to live up to our contract agreement. Now we have our government saying that they will ignore their part of the contract. A complete breach of trust. You cannot trust our own government on the enlistment contract. Our government does not know the meaning of honesty, integrity or honor.”
And our active duty navigator in Florida added,
“There is no reason to believe that Congress will stop here. Next up will be further reductions in pay, further elimination of benefits, and a likely reduction or elimination of retirement pay altogether.”
These statements may be justified with the December 22, 2013 headline: “Paul Ryan doubles down on cutting veteran pensions.” This news indicates these veterans may be justified in their fears for their future benefits.
Veterans and active duty military personnel have spoken. We can only hope our government will listen – especially since, if he signs the bill eliminating veterans’ benefits, our president will, once again, not be honoring the words he made to us in his 2009 speech.
Note 1: Representatives Martha Roby (R-AL) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), have introduced legislation that would “protect veterans’ pension benefits from the slashes they would receive if cuts from the recently passed budget deal ever materialized.”