I came across an interesting article today by TIME.
There have been many debates, conversations, arguments, and social media attention lately to the latest budget deal in regards to military spending and veteran benefits. If you need to get caught up on the conversation, check out mainstream media such as CNN, TIME, and your local news broadcast stations.
The conversation has mostly circulated around veteran benefits in terms of a cap on the COLA (cost of living adjustment or allowance). COLA essentially means that a service member will receive an adjustment to his or her base pay and/or BAH (base allowance for housing) based on the local economy and cost of living. For example, the Coastie and I live in the only county in California of which the Coast Guard does not apply a COLA, but we do receive an increase in our BAH. That means, the Coast Guard recognizes that since there is no supplied military housing and we have to find housing just like any other civilian, we receive a slightly higher BAH than others of our rank that live in supplied military housing. This is to off-set the higher cost of a civilian rental market. However, we do not receive any adjustment to the Coastie's base pay.
As always, you can find information about military pay here.
The conversation has also circulated about closing commissaries, aka military base grocery stores. These grocery stores are available to active duty and retired service members that have the privilege of shopping on base (not all veterans qualify for this privilege). The debate really escalated on the threat of capping the COLA for retired veterans' pensions. This only refers to those military members who have completed 20 years and are entitled to a pension.
These pensions are now under threat by Congress. A 1% reduction in pension COLAs will cost veterans (including my Coastie!!!) tens of thousands of dollars in the future. This is money we will have EARNED but will NOT be paid! (Source)
The question raised in this article was: Are veterans selfish?
Here is my response:
Is anyone who has served 20 years to the same employer, who was hired with a contract including the terms that a pension would be available to him/her after a certain number of years of service, selfish?
Is my mother "selfish" for receiving her pension after 30 years serving our local state government?
Is my father-in-law "selfish" for patrolling our hometown as a police officer for 27 years and expecting a pension upon retirement?
No. None of these people would qualify as selfish. Yet, the debate continues on if veterans are selfish for demanding the U.S. government to uphold their end of the contract signed by each and every one of our service men and women. The Coastie phrased it this way: "If I had known that all these years of service with the hopes that I would have a pension at the end of it could be wiped out this easily, I probably wouldn't have continued to serve this long." Most service members do NOT stay in service for the 20 years that must be met in order to qualify for a pension. However, my Coastie decided long ago when he signed on the dotted line to live his life in service to his country that he would commit 20 or more years. He made this commitment for various reasons, but know that we are married and the economy is not friendly for new job-seekers, he is holding to this commitment.
I would urge you to think critically about these issues. I'd also like you to make it personal. Think of a grandparent, friend, school teacher, neighbor, church member, family member, or friend who has served or is currently serving in the Armed Forces. Think about the sacrifice of what they have given up, the sacrifices their families have made, or how blessed we all are that our country only takes volunteers into military service instead of mandating every male over the age of 18 to participate against his will.
Obviously, the Coastie and I have our own, albeit very biased, opinion
on benefits regarding service members and veterans. I'm not here to push
my agenda on anyone or to influence one way or another in regards to
your idea of a balanced budget for our country. I'm simply hoping that the average voter will educate herself on these issues.
You can find more information from these resources:
National Military Family Association http://www.militaryfamily.org/
Stars and Stripes www.stripes.com
Military Times http://www.militarytimes.com/