Paul Ryan vs. the Military
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) have wrongly and outrageously cut the budget on the backs of the U.S. military. On December 26 President Obama signed a new bipartisan bill that includes a $6 billion cut from military members' retirement. These cuts to COLA (cost-of-living adjustments) also affect medically retired veterans, including those wounded in combat. American Thinker interviewed those who are directly affected.
Amongst Congress and the president there is always the talk of how those serving, past and present need to be admired for their sacrifices. Michael Hall, a former Ranger Command Sergeant Major who served thirty-four years, felt that on December 26th President Obama could have "done the right thing" by refusing to sign the bill unless this provision was taken out. He lost a chance to be the supportive commander-in-chief, missing an opportunity to be the hero and protector to those who have served in the military.
Paul Ryan still insists that the cuts are necessary because military compensation growth is out of hand. With this new budget he obviously did not throw grandma off the cliff, but instead has thrown those in the military. The former and current defenders of America were transformed into sacrificial lambs in an attempt to make Republicans more appealing to the left. Ryan did not balance the budget, pay off the debt, or reform entitlements. Instead he, along with Senator Murray, broke a promise when they changed the contract signed by having the annual cost-of-living adjustments cut by one percent for military retirees 62 or younger.
Iraqi and Afghanistan veteran Pete Hegseth is surprised that it was as much Paul Ryan's idea as Patty Murray. "I felt he should have known better. Never has a Paul Ryan budget included these kinds of cuts. I understand that the military personnel part is eating up the DOD budget and we need to figure out how to reform it. However, it must be addressed without slashing the budget of current retirees. There are better ways of coming up with reform instead of this arbitrary manner."
Many wonder, as Jennifer Haefner has, if the politicians really understand the sacrifices made since it appears, "They look at the money side without looking at the sacrifice side. Many military families move around for the different deployments and have to start their careers over again. That means no buildup of a career or a financial cushion. My husband, a Marine officer, has missed birthdays, anniversaries, watching his children grow, and has seen his friends killed. He has had to work in horrible environments sometimes 7 days a week for 24-hour periods. Shame on those politicians for not understanding that military men and women have sacrificed their lives, limbs, and families. These politicians do not understand us because they have never lived our culture."
Army retired Colonel Jack Jacobs noted to American Thinker, "Let's remember this money was paid to people that are doing a job that no one else wants to do. If it is such a great deal how come everyone who is complaining about the military compensation doesn't immediately sign up and put on the uniform? By all means we should be seeing millions and millions of people clawing their way to get this job. People who sign up for the military do it for G-d, country, and family."
Joyce Wessel Raezer, the Executive Director of the National Military Family Association, wants Americans to understand that a number of promises were broken. "They changed the rules in the middle of the game. In 2012 Congress established the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to examine the entire military-compensation system. At the time the Commission was established it was promised that none of the changes would affect currently serving members and retirees. It would be a proposal only for future military members. Effectively this new budget deal hamstrings the commission before it finished its work and made its recommendations. Other promises broken are that active duty people will be getting smaller pay raises in 2014 then they should have under the law. Congress set the raise to what is the private sector average (ECI), 1.8%; yet, in 2014 military members will only be getting a 1% raise, the lowest since 1962. The military people feel singled out because no one else receiving a government payment is getting hit." She seems to make a good point since CNN reported that any federally funded program that directly serves the needy "could benefit from Murray-Ryan."
Congressman Ryan, who has never served in the military, tries to spin this provision by explaining, "all this reform does is make a small adjustment for those younger retirees." Not true, says those who were interviewed. Americans always hear Ryan quoting numbers -- maybe he should consider these: Joyce cites the Military Officers Association who estimates that the average enlisted retiree will lose about $300 per month; Jennifer, whose husband is an officer, will lose approximately $500 per month; and Michael Hall wants Americans to understand that he only gets $50,000 per year which will be reduced. In addition, former SEAL Jason Redman says Tricare health premiums are rising substantially, as high as 300%, and wonders how a child tax credit of $4.3 billion could be granted to illegal immigrants while "breaking a promise to the one group of Americans who have actually sacrificed and earned the benefits they are receiving as part of a contract signed."
Retired Colonel Jack Jacobs is utterly frustrated since he believes that in the big scheme of things $6 billion is not a lot of money. "This basically has no overall fiscal effect on the budget; yet, has a negative effect on the people that served. The politicians have no interest in saving money regarding their districts because that affects them personally. There are a lot of other places it can be saved including getting rid of a lot of the waste in government. No one should be persuaded by those people who say the reductions are not a lot of money."
Ryan also stated in an op-ed that these "younger military retirees [in their] late 30s and early 40s [in their] are prime working years, and most of these younger retirees go on to second careers." A current Army Master Sergeant who has served over twenty-four years, vehemently disagrees. "Many of the soldiers who retire do not have a skill. There are also those who have health issues, such as PTSD, back and knee problems, which put limitations on the type of job they can find. Unemployment is still high so jobs are not readily available. I am fifty and if I retire I will have to fight age discrimination, making it harder to find a job. This means for twelve years I will have to suffer with lower pay. I ask Mr. Ryan how many of those retirees will be able to find a job? This bill was a slap in the face."
Why do they think the politicians voted for these proposals? Everyone interviewed agrees with Michael Hall that there is no lobbyist for the soldiers who jumps up and down saying military benefits cannot be cut. He feels that they do not have a voting bloc since the contingency is spread throughout the country. "They cut the military benefits because it is the easy way out. The lawmakers have the notion it does not matter what they do to us. Even though we in the military were taught that a person's word and integrity are really important the politicians do not live by this rule. They refuse to ask other Americans to make the sacrifices, and because we are an easy target we were singled out."
Debbie Lee, a spokesperson on military matters, is frustrated with this "government attack on our troops. They honored their contract and did what was required. If any changes are to be made it should be spelled out for future enlistees. As Americans we should remember that military families live in constant fear of getting that knock on the door as I did when I was informed my Navy SEAL son Marc was killed. Politicians forget the dangers because they work in a safe environment with guaranteed benefits."
Not all politicians are of the attitude that they want to take advantage of the silent warriors. Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) told American Thinker he voted against the 2013 Budget Act for a number of reasons, including "cutting military staff benefits, while not addressing the fraud and waste in the military procurement process, something I find offensive. This budget uses the same old tactics of placing the financial burden on the backs of our brave soldiers and their families. I will continue to focus on eliminating the rampant fraud and abuse in our federal system, so legitimate spending such as military pay is not jeopardized."
One Congresswoman who does understand the military members' plight is Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FLA). Her husband is a combat veteran and her children were Marine officers in Iraq. She is cosponsoring a bill to remove any reduction in COLA and commented, "Our veterans are owed the highest protection, care, and service by our grateful nation, and I will continue to work to ensure that we take care of America's heroes."
Former SEAL Jason Redman summarized it best when he quoted Calvin Coolidge, "The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten." Americans need to remember that these brave men and women already sacrificed for their country and should not be asked to sacrifice anymore. They stepped up to defend Americans because they thought it their obligation to serve. As Colonel Jacobs stated, "Lets hope this broken promise is not a commentary on how this country deals with people who serve because if that is the case the answer is not well."
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.