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Readers: Don't mess with retirement pay

Mar. 7, 2014 - 01:16PM   |  
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The Pentagon’s proposal to reduce the size of the pension checks military retirees receive in return for other new cash incentives drew swift condemnation online as people took to the Military Times Facebook pages to vent.

Alex Lopez, a former Marine sergeant, strongly disagreed with any move to curb military retirement, which he says would dissuade young people from joining up.

“You work as many hours as they need you to work, on their schedule, whenever they need you, for as many days as they need you,” he said. “To even to start thinking about cutting [retirement benefits] ... it’s just immoral to me.”

He suggested on the Marine Corps Times Facebook page that any lawmakers who might be inclined to go along with the Pentagon plan should consider cutting their own compensation first.

“Somebody who puts 20 to 30 years deserves a full retirement and has done much more than any congressman or senator will ever do for this country,” Lopez said.

Matthew Carroll, writing on the Air Force Times Facebook page, had similar distaste for the Pentagon plan. He said he hasn’t had much opportunity to build equity in a home during his 18 years in uniform. He and his family have moved often based on the needs of the Air Force, so his wife has had to give up great jobs, losing seniority and generally taking pay cuts.

“I don’t regret my decision to join or to stay at all ... I love my country and the Air Force,” Carroll wrote. “But I really wish our leaders, civilian and military alike, would stop calling our retirement plans overly generous as compared to what one might get in the civilian world.

“What we and our families sacrifice every day far outstrips any amount they might pay us in retirement, and that retirement check has to go toward supporting both my wife and myself, since she gave up the opportunity to get one to follow me around.”

Not all responses to the proposed reforms were negative. Missy Powell wrote on the Military Times Facebook page that she thinks the plan to create a 401(k)-style defined contribution benefit awarded for troops who serve at least six years is a great idea.

“Hundreds of men ... have missed out of the birth of one or more of [their] kids in the last six years,” she wrote. But, she said, she would like to see the military’s 401(k)s vest after just three years, with troops having the option to cash them out upon separation.

“That could be the difference between a new life and the streets,” she said.

However, some people were skeptical of any plan that involves linking retirement compensation to the broader financial markets.

“Then the stock market crashes and a lifetime of serving ... is wiped out in a day,” Greg Eastom wrote on the Navy Times Facebook page. “This is a shameful slap in the face to the people that protect this country by an administration that has no love for its military.”

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