VFW Rebuts Center for American Progress Editorial Attack
'I can guarantee that nothing the VFW says about protecting military pay and benefits is misleading'
May 02, 2012
Monday, three representatives of the Center for American Progress attacked the
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. in an opinion editorial published in
Politico. Entitled “VFW, Allies Mislead
On Pay, Benefits,” they criticized the VFW for opposing Pentagon
budget-reduction plans that would reduce military pay increase percentages,
civilianize the retirement system, and shift more TRICARE health program costs
onto military dependents and retirees. VFW National Commander Richard L.
DeNoyer responded to the attack in a 300-word letter to editor
that was published in today’s issue of Politico. Below is the expanded version.
Richard L. DeNoyer
opinion editorial by Lawrence Korb, Alex Rothman and Max Hoffman would have
readers believe that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is
misleading America into believing that the Pentagon’s proposals to reform
military compensation, retirement and healthcare are bad for the nation.
the national commander of America’s oldest and largest combat veterans’
organization, I can guarantee that nothing the VFW says about protecting
military pay and benefits is misleading. The Defense Department’s “budget
first, people second” proposals are bad for America because they threaten the
continued viability of the all-volunteer force. It takes people to fight and
win our nation’s wars — to put boots on the ground as well as to operate our
ships, planes and tanks. The VFW makes no apologies for wanting to protect
those military programs that attract and retain our best and brightest in
authors would have you believe that proposed military pay raises between .5 and
1.7 percent over the next five years will help rebalance the budget, yet they
make no mention of the effect a resurging economy will have on recruiting and
retention, much less the still volatile and unpredictable world that awaits our
military of 2015 and beyond. They and others seem to have forgotten the huge
recruiting and retention bonuses the military services had to offer just seven
short years ago.
is the constitutional responsibility of Congress to raise, support, and make
rules for the regulation of our armed forces. And while DOD input is crucial
for informed decisions, Congress must not be rushed into any “up or down”
decision, similar to Base Realignment and Closure Commission votes, that could
put a professionally-led, all-volunteer force at risk.
on earlier trial balloons, DOD wants a new military retirement system that
would resemble more participatory, 401(k)-type civilian programs, with the
delayed receipt of retirement benefits until almost age 60. Since less than 10
percent of the force stays 20 years or more — not 17 percent as reported by the
authors — a civilianized military retirement system will hurt retention because
a 401(k)-style retirement plan can be earned virtually anywhere, and in
professions far safer than serving in the military.
needs to carefully review and determine the potential impacts of such proposals
on the force, because the immediate receipt of retirement pay and inexpensive
healthcare for life for the retiree and spouse are the only two incentives the
Pentagon offers to entice someone to first donate 20 or more years of their
youth to the nation.
entire nation faces a health cost crisis, but change advocates want all
military dependents and retirees to shoulder more TRICARE health program costs.
They cite national averages and what federal civilian employees pay in an
attempt to justify plans to more than quadruple TRICARE premiums for some
retirees. They call military healthcare and the retirement system “too
generous,” with some even referring to these earned benefits as something far
more insulting — “entitlements.”
authors would also have you believe that the Pentagon’s proposals are
reasonable and fair, and should be supported by groups like the VFW, the
Military Officers Association of America, and other veteran and military
service organizations. They even wrote that “Reforming the system of military
compensation is necessary — and should be supported by all Americans.”
the authors failed to present the whole picture in their argument. They focus
on the overall monetary cost, but not the human cost that first requires
decades of faithful service just to qualify — the multiple moves and hazardous
deployments; children constantly uprooted from schools and spouses from any
semblance of careers; zero home equity; potential age discrimination when
applying for post-military employment; and now, being relegated to the expense
ledger by the very department that was supposed to have your back.
1.9 million of America’s 22.2 million veterans are military retirees. Their
ranks include former military service chiefs and commanders, and exponentially
more from the enlisted ranks — the rank and file who also help to define a
professionally led, all-volunteer force. But during this budget debate, nobody
seems to care about the people side of the equation; they only want to compare
military pay, healthcare and retirement programs with civilians who choose not
the budget ahead of the troops is going to signal an end to the all-volunteer
force, which for 39 years and more than a decade of continuous war has served
our nation extremely well. That is not a misleading statement; it is a dire
warning, and we urge Congress to focus on the difference.
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