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More Dod Attempts To Slash Mil Retiree Benefits

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Guest Berta



From: "loutouchette" <loutouchette@cox.net>

To: undisclosed-recipients

Subject: For your information.

Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2006 07:30:17 -0700


The preparations for an all-out Department of Defense (DoD) assault on military retirement benefits continues. In SERGEANTS Magazine, recent legislative bulletins, and Capitol Hill Updates, AFSA reported the transparent DoD initiative to significantly reduce retiree health care outlays through the Base Realignment and Closure process. The DoD’s proposed plan to close “underused” medical facilities like Wilford Hall Medical Center, TX; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, DC; Keesler Medical Center, MS; and Malcom Grow Medical Center, MD—to name a few—are clearly designed to force tens of thousands of military retirees, their families, and survivors out of military treatment facilities. The effects of the DoD plan would be to eliminate major pockets of “space-available” retiree healthcare, significantly reduce the comprehensive TRICARE Prime networks, significantly reduce the money DoD pays to fund retiree pharmaceuticals, and force retirees to assume a far greater financial burden for the health care they were promised and have earned.

It appears the DoD minions are now in line, out of touch with the service members they are leading, parroting the views and the desires of the Secretary of Defense to reduce DoD retirement outlays, and determined to avoid paying reserve component members an equitable retirement. These officials are generally very wealthy, high ranking individuals who could do very well without a solid military retirement benefit—or who have no vested interest in military retirement at all. They absolutely disregard the sacrifices made over a career, the promises made to those who stayed on until retirement, the impact of a decent retirement system on retention, and how DoD decisions to reduce retirement benefits would significantly and adversely impact retired enlisted members, their families, and survivors.

They are all speaking alike in delivering the same anti-retiree messages, using the same expressions, and promoting the reductions for retirees: (I) military retirement costs (I.e., TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, space available care, military retirement pay, etc.) are jeopardizing our ability to support those currently serving and, therefore, to defend our nation; (2) military retirees need to pay more for their health care; I.e., more in line with increases in the civilian world; and that (3) currently serving military members don't value retirement–they want increased compensation now–that is the same personal “need” DoD is using to sucker personnel into taking the 15-year “Career Status Bonus” and accept a reduced retirement annuity.

One of the DoD officials repeating the anti-retiree mantra is Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. David S.C. Chu. He recently said, “The amounts [being spent on retirees] have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation’s ability to defend itself.” In another forum, Dr. Chu suggested that today’s troops aren't motivated by retirement; they want the money now. He said, “I’d like to believe 19-year-olds paid attention to their annuity package, but they don't. Nineteen-year-olds want cash to buy a pickup truck.” To Dr. Chu, AFSA can only say that he is out of touch with the troops, focusing on a 19-year old disregards those who are making career decisions, and his comments smack of a blatant lack of respect and appreciation for those who put their lives on the line. In addition, by his comments, it appears his belief is that because (in Chu’s opinion) 19-year-old personnel do not pay close attention to their contracts, then it is okay for the government to take advantage of them, not only now—but for years to come.

Military retirees are not like other citizens; military retirees devoted a significant portion of their mortal existence at physical peril to make freedom possible.The slogan that DoD and other officials are so fond of using when it suits them, “Freedom isn't free,” applies here as well. To suggest that we should now gouge retirees because “they cost too much” and take advantage of 19-year old service members communicates a lack of gratitude for faithful service and a total failure to comprehend what these service members have done and do for our nation. To reduce a nation’s obligations to the “DoD bean counter bottom line” and ignore promises made is not only unethical; it is blatantly unpatriotic.

Another voice in the DoD-dictated chorus, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr., said of the cost of senior retiree health care, “Looking to the medium to longer term, quite candidly, we are concerned.” He welcomed DoD’s BRAC health care facility closure plans. Additionally, he indicated that retiree co-pay increases and even the possibility of reinstituting Active Duty dependent copayments for TRICARE are not being ruled out. Again, the message DoD is sending is that we just can’t afford to continue paying the benefits that we have promised. AFSA believes the fact that active duty family member benefits are on the table suggests even more ominous DoD plans for active and retired members, their family members, and survivors.

Even some top military leaders are getting on board by promoting the DoD line. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark recently called for a “different mix” of pay, including retirement options and a less “paternalistic” approach to compensation. He credits reenlistment success in the Navy in recent years not on pay, bonuses, or the “carrot of an annuity after 20 years,” but on the Navy’s commitment to sailor’s growth and development. He said, today’s servicemembers need a retirement system that can adapt to today’s “mobile workplace.” Again, these comments parallel those coming from DoD and, coming at this time, serve to promote DoD’s overall objective to change the retirement system to reduce DoD retirement outlays.

To eliminate any pretense of DoD intentions and to further solidify his plans to serve a strong blow to military retirement benefits, Secretary Rumsfeld has empowered the Defense Advisory Committee on Military Compensation (DACMC). The committee is charged with examining the military members’ overall compensation programs–including military retirement. That charge is predicated on DoD’s belief that the current compensation system is too heavily weighted toward “deferred compensation,” i.e., retirement pay, retiree healthcare, retiree benefits. The committee is charged with developing the following ideas: (I) earlier retirement possibilities with reduced annuities if the military member retires before age 60, (2) combine that with a mandatory contribution 401-K type plan; (3) eliminate all unnecessary special and incentive pays; (4) overhaul Guard and Reserve Compensation; and (5) significantly raise TRICARE enrollment fees and copayments for military retirees. One member of the committee, Frederic W. Cook (the founder and Chairman of Frederic W. Cook & Co., an independent consulting firm specializing in executive compensation issues and who served for four years as an infantry officer) recently said that raising TRICARE fees and co-pays and indexing them to inflation would be “perfectly fair and equitable.”

Clearly, military retirement benefits are about to face an all-out assault. Once again, DoD is addressing a quality-of-life program to cut overall spending. We expect DoD’s plans to be included in the next presidential budget submission (for the FY 2007 Budget), if not before. However, the good news is that DoD’s plans generally cannot be implemented without changes in the law.

AFSA lobbyists are fighting this hard on Capitol Hill; however, we need help from our members. We urge you to immediately contact your two senators and representative to let them know you are concerned about what DoD is up to, and tell your elected representatives that if they want your vote, you expect them to stop the unethical, uncaring attacks on earned military retirement benefits. We will continue to keep you informed on developments; but please don’t sit by and wait to see what happens. Take action now before it is too late. If this DoD effort to slash military retirement benefits flies, you know it will not stop there, but will continue the trend of planned erosion of benefits and ignoring of promises made that we have all witnessed.

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