The following is a response to syndicated columnist Ruth Marcus’s piece “Bipartisan caving on military pension cuts” published by The Washington Post on February 11. The Washington Post has declined to publish National Commander Dellinger’s response.
As National Commander of the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization, I was dumbfounded by Ruth Marcus’s characterization of military retirement benefits as “extraordinarily generous.”
Her article can be seen by going to http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ruth-marcus-bipartisan-caving-on-military-pension-cut/2014/02/11/3a84561e-9368-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html .
She laments that Congress is correcting its earlier error of lowering future Cost of Living Allowances that military retirees would receive. While she cites a supportive statement from three retired flag officers about the proposed cuts, she neglects to mention that those officers would have been exempted from the COLA reductions and combined will earn more than $560,800 in retirement pay in 2014. I am more concerned about the impact such cuts would have on the retired E-7 that the Military Times estimates would see an average loss of $100,000 by the time he or she reached 62.
The American Legion is happy to see that Ms. Marcus is concerned about training, readiness and modernization. We hope she joins us in opposing the sequestration that has led to these draconian and irresponsible cuts. It is unconscionable, however, to pit military retirement benefits against military readiness in an all-volunteer force where strong incentives are needed to encourage outstanding men and women to serve.
As far as the benefits being “extraordinarily generous,” I would like to remind Ms. Marcus that she could have received these very same benefits if instead of attending Harvard Law School and pursuing a career at the Washington Post, she visited her local military recruiter and signed the dotted line. Of course, that would have also required her to change geographic locations every two or three years, uproot her children from their schools and friends, frequently separate from her family and risk life and limb in a combat zone.
The attitude of some who complain about military benefits being too generous reminds me of the barkeep who harassed a British soldier in Rudyard Kipling’s “Tommy.” “For it’s Tommy this, an Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!’But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot…”
Daniel M. Dellinger
The American Legion