Proposed Changes to Military Retirement Benefits

The military retirement system is one of the most loved – and valuable – benefits available to military members. It is unique in many ways, and one of the few retirement plans in the US which starts paying beneficiaries immediately upon retirement without a standard waiting period or age limit.

Unfortunately, it is also a target by cost-conscious members of the government who are looking for ways to decrease the military budget and cut costs over the next few decades. Because of the high cost of the military retirement system, the Defense Business Board which was tasked with studying the military retirement system and making recommendations on how the government can save money on the military retirement system in the coming decades.

The basic conclusion by the Defense Business Board, found in this pdf entitled, Modernizing the Military Retirement System, was that the current military retirement system is “unfair, unaffordable, and inflexible.”

What follows is the slideshow prepared by the Defense Business Board, containing their recommendations and how they would affect the military. Afterward, we give our take on the proposed changes:

Proposed Changes to Military Retirement Benefits

US Military Logos

The current military retirement system – why it’s good for members and why it might change. In the current system, active duty servicemembers who retire after 20 years can expect to begin receiving their pension almost immediately and the payments will not only continue through the remainder of their lives, but will also increase based on Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). A military retirement is worth millions over the course of a lifetime. While military retirement benefits may not be enough to live on for everyone, the system is a fairly generous program, and one that is hard earned by its recipients.

The problem with the military retirement system, according to the government, is that it is becoming increasingly more expensive and potentially unsustainable in the long run, especially when factoring in the full health care coverage given to military retirees and their family members. TRICARE has its critics, but overall, it is a very affordable insurance program which is basically unmatched in the civilian sector.

All of this leads us to cost: the government has been seeking out ways to reduce the overall cost of the military retirement system, which, if left unchanged, will spiral out of control in the coming decades. Here are some of the main notes from the study, which support the need for change:

  • The military retirement system has not materially changed for over 100 years
  • The current military retirement system was designed for an era when life spans were shorter
  • Pay was not competitive with civilian pay
  • Second careers were rare since military skills did not transition easily to the private sector

These additional reasons were given to support a new military retirement system:

  • DoD pays retirees 40 years of retirement benefits for 20 years of service
  • Military skills are transferable to the private sector
  • Second careers are now common for those retiring in their 40s

What follows are a couple of recent recommendations which have been making headway.

Defense Business Board Recommendations:

Please keep in mind these are only proposed changes by the Defense Business Board, and have not yet been put before Congress or the President and have not been voted on for becoming part of law.

  • Convert military retirement to a civilian-style retirement system similar to a 401k plan; retirement pay wouldn’t be paid until age 60-65 (or Social Security age)
  • Retirement benefits would vest after 3-5 years of service
  • Authorize “gate pays” and separation pay to encourage separation from active duty or to continue service on active duty

Let’s take a look at each of these and how they might affect military members.

Military Retirement Changes: Defined Benefit Plan

Perhaps the biggest proposed change is moving away from the traditional pension style system to a defined benefit plan, similar to a civilian 401k plan. In this proposed system, military members would receive a mandatory Thrift Savings Plan account into which annual contributions would be made by their member service (the average DoD contribution was listed at 16.5% of annual pay).

There are several versions of the defined benefit plan discussed, with vesting starting as soon as 3-5 years of active duty service. These plans would also be portable into the civilian sector and back into military service if there is a break in service.

Individual members would have the ability to contribute “gate pays” or additional funds to their account and each service would be able to contribute additional funds to members based on high deployment schedules, hardship, troops who are at risk, for bonuses and as a retention tool, and for other reasons as each service sees fit.

What this proposed plan is – and isn’t. Basically, this proposed plan is what you would find at many companies in corporate America – a 401k plan with matching benefits which would vest after serving a few years with the company. After your defined benefit plan vests, you could take it with you when you go to another company. What this plan is not, is a pension plan, which pays servicemembers a defined benefit at a specific time.

Will Current Servicemembers Be Grandfathered in?

The proposal by the Defense Business Board did not plan on changing any benefits to current retirees. So if you have already retired, then your benefits probably won’t be touched, at least by this set of proposals.

But there were two different scenarios given regarding how these proposed changes would be implemented for current military members – a low cost proposal and a high cost proposal – low cost meaning low cost to the government, and high cost meaning high cost to the government. Let’s take a look at both options.

The low cost proposal would go into effect as soon as it was voted into law and would affect current military members on a graduated basis. For example, if you had already served 20 years, you would be grandfathered into the old system and would receive your pension benefits under that plan. If you had had fewer than 20 years of service, you would get a combination of the old retirement plan (the pension, or annuity) and the new plan (the 401k style plan). To receive the pension, military members would still be required to serve 20 years. Here is how the “low cost” proposal would affect current servicemembers.

  • 20 years of service or more, no change
  • 15+ years of service, 37.5% of base pay in a pension plan, and the rest under the 401k-style plan.
  • 10 years of service, 25% of base pay, and the rest under the 401k-style plan.
  • 5 years of service, 12.5%, and the rest under the 401k-style plan.
  • New recruits, new retirement system.

The high cost proposal would mean that everyone currently in the military would continue to be under the current retirement system and could receive their normal pension after they reach 20 years of service or more. The new retirement system would only affect servicemembers who join active duty after the new retirement system is voted into law and takes effect.

Will a New Military Retirement System be Voted into Law?

Military Retirement Pay ChangesRight now it’s too early to tell. This is only one recommendation for change and it has been sent back to be studied further and will be presented again in February of 2012. Though we don’t know what will happen, we can say two things for certain:

  1. Something will need to change with the military retirement system.
  2. It will be fought tooth and nail by military interest groups.

1. The numbers don’t lie. Like the Social Security System and Medicare, the military retirement system is quickly growing out of control. Changes need to be made – how or when, I don’t know. But I would hope that the government would find a middle ground between the current retirement system and any proposed changes.

2. Any changes to the military retirement system will be highly contested by military and veteran organizations. And rightly so. Military servicemembers put their lives at risk and make more physical and emotional sacrifices than the average office worker who earns a 401k and a pat on the back. The military retirement system is just one manner in which military members are rewarded for their sacrifices.

I also don’t believe the changes should affect anyone who is 1) already receiving military retirement benefits, or 2) already serving with the understanding that they are eligible for benefits under the current retirement system. Taking away benefits from someone after they had earned them or made life changing decisions based on what they would receive is not the way to take care of the people who protect our freedom.

What are your thoughts on these proposed changes to the military retirement system?

photo credit: USAF

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Date published: September 19, 2011. Last updated: January 18, 2012.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Phil says

    I read the entire set of slides produced by the Defense Business Board and I agree that something needs to change with the military retirement system. But I don’t agree with the way they laid it out in their proposal. Something more in the middle would still save the military a lot of money and provide military members with a valuable retirement plan to fall back on. Perhaps instead of an immediate pension, they could start the pension 10 years after servicemembers complete 20 years of service, or service members could begin receiving benefits at a set age. The retirement requirement could also be pushed back to 25 years instead of 20.

    But doing away with the program entirely is no different than going to work for any company that offers a 401k plan. How is that rewarding our troops? It isn’t.

    • zane says

      leave the plan alone, the government is hurting the retired troops enough with the health care plans coming up. if you are vested after 3-5 years or it goes into FICA then the government is going to use it for dumb idias like stock market bail outs. That worked so well before. I really like how programs like unicef and walfare can not be cut but the reason some of you are free can be cut. we need to lobby this issue and not settle.

      • Debbra Salo says

        I agree this just looks like a money grab by the civilian side, mandating the change on the military to accept a broken contracted benefit promise. It’s never been bi-lateral agreement when a person obligates themself to military service. I’ve seen a 5-year committment become a 7-year and then 10-year committment with the swipe of a pen, and no offset benefit to the military “all volunteer force” member. The military member is obligated to accept the new terms. I’ve seen a 7-years ’til retirement be taken away with the swipe of a pen for one person, taking away longevity years as if they were never promised, just to serve the numbers game. And I’ve seen plush retirements being bragged about by double-dippers who receive Military retirement, Federal Government retirement, and now are just a short distance from getting their lucrative Defense Contractor retirement. Excuse me, I meant triple dippers. I really see it as another broken promise, invalid contractual change because it isn’t mutual, but hey, if I got *******, why not screw everyone else too, of course, that is, except for the already triple-dipping triple dippers.

        • Bryan says

          World War II taught many lessons.

          One was that combat is a young man’s occupation.

          The Board missed that point.

          One statistic that was ignored, likely on purpose, was that retirement costs are high because the Military has been downsized.

          17% of 5 million is a much larger percentage of 2 million.

          The board also missed the point that a military career is up or out. During the draw down after the Vietnam War service members who did not advance, and virtually no one did, were separated before they reached 20 years.

          Consequences of implementing these proposals will include encouraging the best and brightest to leave the military rather than become the young ( 35 to 45 year old ) senior leaders who make it the finest military in the world.

          If your goal is to destroy the quality of U.S. military leadership implementing these plans will do it.

          • Gin says

            Couldn’t agree more with this post. The government seems more reactionary than proactive. Once the snowball effect has reached epidemic proportions then and only then will they try to stop the hemorrhaging. The current plans are just a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.

            I really can’t in all good faith, recommend a long term career to any recruit who might ask for advice on making it a career. At best I would say six years. Make getting your degree with that free education money a top priority in that period so you have something to fall back on when you separate. And one less chore to deal with once discharged.

            If the government is willing to remove incentives for keeping it’s craftsmen and superintendents long term let them deal with the consequences of it. Good luck reinstating a draft. By then the amount of potentials in the civilian field that even remotely qualify will be so nil. Obesity, tattoo extremes, criminal records…small wonder national security is at risk. I don’t look forward to the next 10 years.

            Don’t know they can seriously ask for “a few good men” when actively shortchanging the good men and women they have serving honorably now. And with the internet and social media they sure won’t be able to sweep any of it under the rug like in the days of yore. Recruitees can (and will) turn to that media to get a snapshot of what the military is really about and how the government really feels about them. And you have far too many eager beavers in uniform that vent freely (a little too freely at times). Recruiters’ jobs are getting harder. And on top of that they now want to slash the only real incentive left to wear the uniform all through their prime years.

            Good luck trying to convince future recruits that their country needs them when they know how the country feels about those who served. Look around your city at the homeless vets. That’s your worth.

  2. says

    Good comments, Phil. I don’t think the military should go this route either. There is an honor that comes with earning a military retirement. The government is making this seem like someone who serves 5 or 10 years will be earning a “military retirement,” which just isn’t the case. I only served one tour, and even though I have the TSP, I won’t have a “military retirement” when I turn 60 years old. I will have a “very small” amount of money I can withdraw from. I’m not complaining – I made my decision to serve and I made my decision to separate from the service.

  3. Guy Slater says

    If (as current email rumors have it) the Obama administation is trying to gut the military, this would be a great way to do it. I do not, for a New York minute, believe the rumors to be true. That said, look at what the DBB recomendation might likly do.

    Retention: I think it will cause those who have looked at the military as a career to reconsider, and then leave. Why would I want to serve, possibly 24/7, for years, then be told, “See Ya!” and wait to collect when/if I reach 60? The sacrifices that need to be made by the service member in relocations, disruption of family lives, expenses relating to where one is forced to live, etc., are only tolerable by the thought of what one receives at the end of 20 (or more) years.

    Recruiting: I see it taking a nose dive. When (if one can find a job these days, but that WILL change sometime…we all hope!) one can go to work at a job where there is a low expectation of someone trying to kill one, work an 8 hour day, 5 days a week, at better pay, and be able to tell the boss to “Kiss my a**!” without the expectation of going to jail (UCMJ does that if wanted), of being able to call in sick and not being forced to go to formation and get a “Mommy may I slip” to go on sick call, of possibly having a union to represent them in contract negotiations, and more, the choice would be obvious.

    Those that would join, would probably do so for the GI Bill benefits or the job training they would get, and then leave when their initial contract was up. And there will always be that corps of personnel who join for the patriotic reason. There are some still left. And those who see the military as a way out of the socio-economic situation they are currently in.

    Draft: I see a very real possibility of the Country returning to the days of the Draft as a means of getting warm bodies into boots. The good side of that is that the pay could be lowered for the Draftee, thus saving money. The bad side is that those drafted would be everyone (I hope! Females included this time.) with the attendant problems of society as a whole. The dropout, the mentally marginal, the criminal, the addict, much the same problems we hade befor VOLAR in the Army.

    If the DBB recommendations are adopted (which I really do not see occuring) I seriously think that we will also see the end of the USA as a country within a very few years.

    • Debbra Salo says

      I agree. The current generation is going to see this and realize the ignorance of Congress trying to say retirement for a Military fighting man and woman should be treated just like a civilian 9-5 bank worker or office secretary. Parents will even start telling their kids even though the Patriotism is worth it, the lies and disrespect are beneath them. There are so many more ways our children can give of their talents to this world. The trade-off between risking life and limb and “HOW” you choose to contribute to your country is getting a facelift.

      How does the Police force treat it’s retirees. That would be the only relative non-military retirement system that I would think could be considered for assimilation and “benchmarking”. As far as I know, they get paid at about the 35 year mark in their service.

  4. Jerry says

    Has anyone looked at the pension plan of the members who are making these proposal, look back when they bragged about giving a 3.5% military pay raise with an attachment for themselves of 15% raise, I wonder when the funds went!

    • monica says

      I agree Congressional members should have to give up their benefits, after all, a majority of them don’t even put in 20 to 30 years of service. Some even get retirement benefits after commiting crimes. There are other areas to cut from like printing information in foreign languages or giving benefits to illegals. But military retirement will go to those people instead of the people protecting the American citizens. I look for this administration to have its own Army soon and it won’t be one of the people or for the people, one reason so many personnel cuts are being made.

    • Debbra Salo says

      100% agree! We need to stop ALL pay-raises of Public Servants (Congressional and other Politicians included) until our national debt is $0. (Spelled “Z…E…R…O”) They should experience the cost of living increases they are causing the rest of us. (But they still won’t, because they already make too much. Maybe we could figure out how to give them minimum wage, and make them earn the rest in “tips”, like other “servants” in our economy. Maybe they would work harder to actually “serve” the people who elect them.

        • Debbra Salo says

          Or a better “Benchmark”, since it is a “Business” Board that is massaging this brainfart…Let’s compare the retirement to the Politicians’ retirement. We are all cut of the same stone, serving our country. This Board is too limited in it’s review because it ONLY compared to financial product, rather than the “CUSTOMER” of the financial product. The only thing that makes the least bit of sense to me is that the supplier of the product is just seeking to expand it’s market, and it is targeting the military. It’s not a valid study. It’s market research for TSP. It’s a money grab. If NOT, then apply it to Politicians too. Otherwise, I’m right.

  5. Gerald says

    You put 40-50 years of work in those 20 years of service. I would agree with the changes , just as soon as the conflicts around the world have an 8-5 schedule and weekends off.

  6. says

    Or, perhaps do away with those suggestions and just give 100% matching TSP contributions to each member of the military. Every year, each one can have a potential savings of $33,000. After 20 years, their base contributions would total $660,000. This would not even take into account the other $49,000 of combat zone contributions, or the gains (or losses) in the market. Next, they should allow the TSP withdrawal after 20 years of service, if need be.


    The TSP is simple, efficient, and “stupidly” inexpensive, relative to even Vanguard’s least expensive index funds.

    “Don’t prevent wealth.”

  7. militarylady says

    How dare you compare Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, or Marines to every day citizens we deserve more because we do more. As we fight for your freedom. While you stay snuggled in your beds at night feeling safe, while others are fighting a war and then you expect for us to wait until we are 65 years old. Some of us have deployed over half of our careers to foreign countries seeing things you could never imagine. And then you want us to wait for what we have earned. We live a hard 20 years some more than that. We wake up early and go to bed late at night. We are away from our families years at a time come back and our children don’t even know us. We see our comrades die and get injured. Some even not being able to handle the pressure. We are dictated by strict rules that every day society could not even adhere too. We fight for the American way of life and Freedom and all I can say is how dare you. I bet congress who serves only 4 years to get retirement for life won’t take a pay cut. And what are they sacrificing?

    • erika says

      Thank You. It could not have been said better. Not only would it be hurtful but also so degrating to everyone who serves and has served this country congress should be ashamed of themselfes for even proposing such crap. My husband and my 2 sons have served.I am so proud of you and thank you for your service Mam.

  8. says

    I hate to hear military people brag about how great they are. The truth is the military took us in and gave us a job when no one else would. It has benefits way beyond what I got as a civilian: free health care and dental care, free chowhall, 30 days leave, all kinds of time off, at least 75% off education costs, movie theaters that only charge a buck, cheap commissaries, etc etc. It’s the best deal going! I owe the military and not vice versa. Grow up, military lady.

    • Jay Sanchez says

      All I can say is wow… Let me tell you my opinion on some of these topics. First as a proud soldier that I am and serving so far 16 years and 3 months, I have not complained much. I actually enlisted in 1995 and I saw the 15 year retirement plan go into affect. Alot of soldiers took it some did not. The military changed from that downsizing. In some areas it got better in others it didnt. I want to retire now. And I know what ever decision is decided I know it will be to the best. Im hoping for the best. Now for the comment about military people bragging on how great we are. I dont tell anyone im in the military when in public. I dont ask for anything unless i dont have enough money in my pocket and of course if a discount is offered to military i will ask for it. The military is not for all people. I have chosen to stay in because of the benefits. And for your information yes medical and dental are free, but for me, and did you know its not the best medical care. Join the military and you will see how good it is. As for the other organizations like comissaries and PX, yeah i dont shop in them, not because of the prices but when i get off work and able to enjoy a weekend without 24 hour duty on a Saturday or Sunday , let me just say i enjoy staying away from work. Torch for your comment that said grow up. Join the army and actually become a 13FOX thats my job. And when you are in my job area for 16 years and 3 months then you can tell other military people to grow up. I chose to serve the United States of America and i chose to give my life in its Defense. If you think its not fair the military soldiers and their families to get more then you do, then my advice to you is go live in Iraq or Afganistan, who knows maybe you will like it. Alot of Soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice. Good guys and gals. Serving you and everyone else in the United States and other countries. Dont speak bad about military people. But if you hate that we get 1 dollar movie theatres, then go to a movie theatre on post and watch a movie. Its not the best picture quality and no drink holder. But its your right to voice your opinion. Its just nice to know sometimes what people think when im off serving my country that I love so much and working with soldiers all around the United States of America. Anyway the military is doing ok. And I hope something is decided soon. After 5 deployments and im actually done right now with the 5th deployment, i dont want to wait 3 years and 10 months to complete 20 years. I just hope something is decided soon and they dont prolong this. But hey Torch join the Army its really good and the benefits are great. Cant wait to serve with you if i havent retired.

    • danboone143 says

      Wow you must be a private just out of boot camp. I doubt you are even in the military though and certainly you haven’t walked in the shoes of someone like militarylady or myself or most of the others here. The military is a really good deal when you are young, it starts to get less competitive with the civilian sector when you actually start serving, especially in combat and on deployments but that’s where the 20 year retirement serves as an excellent tool for retention.

      Retention is an excellent way to save the taxpayers money; far more cost effective than having to recruit and train a new service member and hope they don’t flake out.

      Taking our 20 year retirement away AFTER we have earned it is theft; no different than if someone painted your house and then you refused to pay them. Taking it away in the future is a bad idea because you won’t get the quality of personnel you have today. That being said, with the troop strength drawdowns, they will try it and then say “hey look, our numbers are still good”. When those currently serving ETS, they will have to discard this flawed notion that the military is no different than a civilian job.

  9. AFRetired68 says

    Here is a point worth making.
    Retiring at 50% of pay is not really 50% of pay — it’s only 50% of base pay. In other words, it excludes untaxed quarters and subsistence allowances, which can be a significant part of a soldier’s income. If one would compute the real percentage, it would be somewhere around 35% of pay. Older pension plans from civilian companies used to be plus/minus 2% of pay per year of service. Granted, a civilian would not collect until retirement age (55 – 65 yrs old), but if one worked for a company for 20 years, that person would have about 40% of pre-retirement pay, along with contributions to a 401 k.

    Here is an example using 2010 pay data for an E-7 retiring just after 20 years and assuming he/she is married and no supplemental subsistence or quarters when active duty:
    Base Pay = $4,131 / mo
    Subsistence = $325 / mo
    Housing = $967 / mo
    Approx tax advantage subsistence and housing allowances = $430 /mo
    Total Active Duty Equivalent Income = $5,893 / mo

    Retired Pay = $2,065.50 / mo
    Percent of Active Duty Income = 35%

    These are facts. Temper them with other facts regarding the risks and sacrifices made by our active duty volunteers, then make your own conclusions.

    • Debbra Salo says

      Good example. And that’s what our politicians see. They see that military are bringing in retirement pay each month that is approximately twice as much as any other person who collects social security. Politicians think $2,000 per month is more than military members deserve. They think military deserve less. (I just don’t see how they can look themselves in the mirror every morning knowing they continue to add to what they think THEY are worth, while deminishing what they think the value of military lives are worth. They are the bean counters, and that doesn’t add up. And maybe they think when they interject the term “all volunteer force” in the discussion, that trumps any enlistment contracts that were agreed between the consenting parties. Maybe they should be honest and start saying “at will” enlistment, like the private sector, so when one party willy nilly flip flops on an original contractual term and condition, the other party can willy nilly flip flop and quit.)

  10. AG says

    From the moment I read the initial suggestions of the DBB, I was both happy that a problem had been identified and concerned about the backlash that would surely come from some of my uninformed and irrational colleagues in the military (I have 8 years of service, served in both Iraq & Afghanistan). Reading some of the comments and hearing much of the dialogue in Washington, unfortunately I was right.

    First, facts are simply ignored, and replaced with emotion, which is usual in debates carried out in the American media. This post does a pretty good job of stating the facts, but some could be emphasized.

    FACT: The current system is “unsustainable.” That doesn’t mean we should think about fixing it, it means we have no choice. Just like Social Security and Medicare. Unsustainable means what good is a defined pension if the government promising it is no longer solvent. There’s a reason there is no equivalent system in the civilian sector. It is no more sustainable in the private sector than it is in the public sector. And the private sector is generally good with money, where as the government is only good with spending it.

    FACT: 83% of military members don’t get ANY retirement benefits (aside from funds they contributed to TSP, unmatched). Serving my country is an honor, but I don’t see how 20 years of service is worth millions more than 15 years of service…or 5 years of service for that matter. (and a defined annuity as it currently exists, along with medical benefits is easily worth millions). There is nothing magical about that 20 year point, other than that’s when qualified people start heading to other jobs because economically, they’ve reached their maximum benefit.

    Now, some things that I can’t state as fact, but I’m pretty sure I know. Most people don’t join for the retirement, especially since only 17% get it anyway. Besides, how many 18-22 year olds do you know who do anything for a defined pension? I don’t know where this draft talk is coming from, but it’s absolutely crazy. A scare tactic to win an audience.

    The reason we have such a debt problem in the US today is because everyone thinks we should cut spending, but everyone who gets a piece of the pie thinks someone else should have their benefit cut and will fight to keep their own. That’s not in keeping with the spirit of the volunteer servant, and I for one, am ready to help my country get back to sanity. If it means starting with the military pension, then that’s as good of a place to start as any.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Andy.

      I agree with most aspects of your comments – particularly that the military retirement system is not sustainable in its current form. My goal with this site is to present the facts as best I can, and share my thoughts when appropriate.

      In this case, I agree – something needs to be done. The main issue I have with the DBB’s recommendations is the possibility of cutting retirement benefits for those who haven’t yet reached 20 years of service. While many 18-22 year olds don’t join the service for the defined pension plan and medical care, many 30-40 year olds continue serving because they know they are close to receiving these benefits. Taking them away after someone has planned their personal and professional life around those benefits is sure to bring a lot of backlash. That said, many top officials have gone on the record as saying any changes would not affect current military members. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

      Of course, this is all my personal opinion – I didn’t stay in long enough to qualify for a military pension; I served 6.5 years before separating from the military.

    • erika says

      If congress would spend the money where they are supposed to spend it then social security would not be in jeopardy. Like spend social security funds to the recipients and not on things that have nothing to do with social security.

    • zane says

      enjoy your freedom becuse with changes you may not have anyone to provide this service. 3% of americans ever stand up. The rest just hide then complain because they want their freedoms free. In a country like American the simple person doesn’t know anything about giving it’s all about recieving. Materialistic and selfish, but we can take the benfits from our troops who fight for you.

  11. Phil says

    This is truly a dire situation. But it does not compare to the situation caused by Congress with Social Security benefits, where they raided the funds that we provide for our future welfare and then tell us that the system is broke. Congress does not have to worry, they did away with the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and instituted the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), which works somewhat like a 401k, if it worked at all. Since the fall of the market and the Wall Street bailouts, many federal employees have seen their retirement plans dashed to the floor when the bottom of the market fell out. Even if the market recovers to what it was before the fall, those people have had their retirement cut or seen it disappear before their very eyes. Now they start looking around to see where they can cut programs, so they can try and balance what they continually unbalance, and look at the Military Retirement System, and lo and behold they try to do the same thing that they did to the Social Security System, gut it to pay for the follies of unstoppable spending. The main difference between the Social Security System, a 401k plan and Military Retirement System is that two are paid by the employee with money, soldiers pay their part with blood, sweat, tears, broken homes, broken lives, loss of members from their bodies, and some give their lives an receive no benefit whatsoever, and they do it not for that 50% pay after 20 years, but for their country and to guarantee the right of congressmen who have never been military, or even boy scouts, to pass legislation that takes away the rights of the people. But then congress persons don’t have to worry about being on a battlefield, or get up at 4 am for Reveille, or even not go to bed for weeks because they are in combat, all they really worry about is that they have power and a guaranteed pension for life, not a retirement plan, and it’s not FERS either.

    • debra says

      too bad those on fers couldn’t be privy to insider trading like the hill so they could make changes to save their money. I also had a 401K I put into for years and when the market died I lost over half of it and I am to old to recover those lost monies. 401K plans are a terrible idea for retirement plans. Some people that handle your account are idiots and are not looking out for you.

      • Debbra Salo says

        Exactly right! Have we not learned that the market rises and falls? And cost of living rises and…rises? We do still know what just happened to everyone’s life savings, college funds, retirement funds. They all just fell. So, I think I’m missing something here…how exactly is this time going to be different? It’s NOT. When people LOST their savings, SOME OTHER people GAINED. It’s these SOME OTHER people that are trying to add to the trough for their next big GAIN. At the military members’ LOSS.

  12. Darline Lee says

    I could agree with a change happening gradually so enlistees know what’s ahead, but I totally believe there should be NO CHANGE for current veterans and those who are losing body parts and being able to live period. BENEFITS are and were in our BINDING CONTRACTS that were signed. I can envision my daughter, who is an aspiring attorney, becoming very wealthy if any of the existing military contracts are broken.
    She is a NAVY BRAT, having gone to 6 high schools, along with her sisters, because of required moves to unknown territories and literally homeless, so bring it on OBAMA & FRIENDS. Hoping for a Wonderful life for my kids and grandkids, Darline Lee

  13. Mark says

    Instead why don’t we decrease and/or get rid of the retirement benefits that those sorry crooked ********. Ote for themselves! We get a retirement after 20yrs of military service but they get full retirement after only 6yrs.

    • Retired Jay says

      Maybe the Congress and Senate are willing to take the same retirement as the military folks, we probably would see less attacks to the military retirement system.

  14. Lacy Turner says

    Dear Mr. Guina,
    I am a military wife with a strange situation I hope you can help with.
    I am still legally married to a retired Army Serviceman,although he left me with 3 children 14 years ago. He is still on my joint bank account and for 14 years has allowed his retirement check (half of which goes to a former spouse and children) to be direct deposited each month. This month it was not in the bank and since I have no contact with him no one will speak to me. I understand the privacy act but this is sudden and with no warning and very detrimental to this family’s well being. I have contacted everyone I can think of,(JAG Office,DFAS ETC. If you have any other suggestions for me please,I am desperate. No one will even tell me if he has passed away,he stopped the check or anything at all. Your response is greatly appreciated. We were married in 1989 and I need help. Thank you

  15. Jarhead says

    I think disability should be looked at first. If the service caused one some form of disability, how can the recipient then have a second career? Big scam. Sleep apnea, back or knee pain… How is the military responsible for that? Then to get a percentage, and then a civil servant job? Either you’re hurt, or you aren’t, which one is it? I don’t know the savings, but it would be substantial.

  16. Rick says

    It may not hurt recruiting for first time enlistees, but it will definately hurt retention. I served 20 years and retired and knowing that after 20 years I would be eligable for my pension was a large part of re-enlisting every 4 to 6 years. Also, lets not forget for 20 years I made a low salary compared to my civilian counterparts in respect to education and skill set. And I did that partly to serve this great country and the knowledge that I would recieve some compensation for that when I retired. Without strong retirement benefits both pension and medical benefits the military will lose the experienced personnel that it so badly needs. Unlike civilian organizations where people stay for long periods of time, the military has a high turnover rate due to personnel being assigned to different stations. Experienced personnel are the knowledge base that is needed to support and defend the Goals and Objectives of the military. You cannot defend the nations interest with the majority of the force in their first or second enlistments, it would be disasterous. Currently retainability is what makes our military the strongest military in the world and keeps are enemies at bay. As the slogan of my first command (SAC) Peace is our profession. Let’s keep it that way!

    • TJ says

      We certainly are expected to hit the ground running in the military. From Basic Training till separation be it 4, 6, 10, or 20+ years. It was like that 22 years ago, still is. That much hasn’t changed. Our skill levels sets are expected to rise quickly and competently whilst also expected to maintain high fitness standards. If you’re scoring 100% on the PT tests alone that’s practically a pro sports level of fitness! And this is the standard of a military professional at all levels in the chain of command. Show me a civilian job that requires such a vast array of talents and abilities. You’ll be hard pressed to find them. And all this can be taken away with a single IED, a well placed bullet, insurgency…also occupational hazards of the profession! I cannot believe Congress is trivializing these things. Where do they think all this PTSD is coming from? This tells me they aren’t dealing with much of anything on Capitol Hill that requires DoD’s intervention if they are looking to tinker with the one incentive for keeping its mid-level and up members in uniform.

  17. debra says

    It angers me to read the changes that are proposes from the same people that only have to serve 5 years on the hill and can start receiving a retirement at age 50 and upwards to 85% of there salary. A big cost is medical for their family members. Maybe insurance should be offered like at a civilian job. They pay a monthly preium for coverage. Dental coverage never use to be paid for dependents. I spent 7 years in the Navy back during the Nam war so I have first hand knowledge of what our service men went through. All service people should be commended for putting their lifes on the line for this country and compensated for those actions. I also beleive that anyone that runs for a government office of any type should have servered at least 4 years in the military so they know what a service member goes through.

  18. Debbra Salo says

    This topic for discussion hits a chord with all of us. We realize once again, that our expectations, plans, confidences, what we believed we earned, is on the chopping block, and we have very little say. I learned that a long time ago. But I take this sad moment of shared disappointment and find within it an opportunity to say thank you to all fellow military members. You are the best of the best. No benefits or pay have or will compensate who and what you are to our nation. Thank you. From my heart to yours. Politicians can never take that knowledge away.

  19. Debbra Salo says

    Please clarify what the exponential climb and spike followed by cliff drop in 2028 reflects on slide #23. It is where cost spikes to match liabilities, so supposedly, the bills get paid in that particular year, but then suddenly liabilities become exorbitantly higher than the cost. And how could costs exceed liabilities after 2061? It doesn’t make sense for military to be paying out more than it’s liabilities call for.

  20. Randy says

    I notice politicians always want those who are making the least to sacrifice the most. Why don’t they come up with a plan to limit their service to 12 years, do aways with the lifetime pension for 4 yrs of service and go to a 401k system, and pay for part of their health care like everyone else. That waould save a lot more than their proposal.

  21. Susan says

    Everybody is bickering about being “entitled” to this retirement program. Our country simply cannot afford it anymore. Retirement rates take out such a big chunk of the overall defense budget, that perhaps in the future, it won’t be as practical to keep someone in for 20+ years.

    I know many good, capable soldiers that got out after 6, 10 years and received diddly squat. I think the TSP is a great idea for all the soldiers that don’t want to stay in 20. No other job in the world incurs such risk and gives back so little for 10 years of service. It shouldn’t be all or nothing. Our retirement system now either attracts really great soldiers, or really ****** ones that really couldn’t survive in the real world. Everyone knows so the type of soldier I’m speaking of.

    I do know a lot of people that end up going into federal service and getting second pensions, and it’s ********. Yes, we risked our lives for our country, but to speak in terms of our country “owing” us is to undo the tasks that we did with honor. This is a time of auterity and it’s coming hard. Everyone is seeing pension plans change.

  22. Doug says

    A few points that haven’t been hit yet.

    When we look at the military budget we need to consider the tremendous waste that exists. I mean real waste. For example, each fiscal quarter my service has a spend it or loose it policy. So needless to say instead of trying to save money each department spends every penny, even if you don’t need anything. The end of the fiscal year is the worst, I’ve seen thousands and thousands of dollars wasted on stuff we did not need. (office furniture, tv’s, tools you name it) So if my little department, on my little base, is wasting thousands of dollars every quarter imagine what the whole military wastes…

    Second, there is so much red tape in the military it can just boggle your mind. For instance for me to buy some batteries for our flashlights it takes about 2 hours to complete the paperwork. Multiply that by thousands of orders and you get the point, the military is not efficient.

    Third, to say the retirement benefits we earn is killing the military budget is just not true. Numbers can be twisted to give/say anything you want, we all know this. If 85% of all military people never get to retirement then that means it must be a tough life or everyone would stay in. If you don’t think it’s true just look at the suicide and divorce rates in the military, they are much higher than any other career path. The truth is simple after 20+ years of service you’re burned out. Your youth was spent deployed, and you somehow find yourself wondering what happened.

    Everyone who get’s a military retirement deserves it period. Anyone who thinks differently never tried our profession or couldn’t cut it.

  23. S.A.B says

    @ Doug. Good comments. It is very clear the proposal is statistically one- sided/swayed to support their ideas. As long as they do not bring up other important topics and accurate stats it doesn’t exist.
    Many individuals experienced in logistics could re-write instructions to save not millions but “B” with-in a decade. But, like everyone can see they would rather cut the forgotten military retirements then be honest with everyone and themselves.
    Never liked cop-outs especially from the individuals we trust to run our country properly.
    “Some-where along our journey we lost ourselves. Should we blame the one we trusted to follow? Or blame ourselves for not correcting them? “.

  24. Marvin Nichols says

    Some of us retirees on disability are already being deprived of benefits if the disability is under 50%. If we spend 20 years in we are given a retirement of 50% of pay upon retirement. If we have a disability added to the retirement we have part of our retirement paid by the service and the other part by the VA. There is really no compensation for the disability. The Government always finds ways to wiggle around their obligations.

  25. anonymous says

    No one should be permitted to collect a Federal employee paycheck without a concurrent reduction in military retainer (retired) pay; it is double dipping and unfair to the taxpayers. A fix to double dippers was implemented previously but reversed under President Clinton. I support Veteran’s preference for Civil Service all the way but, once hired, the Veteran should not be permitted to draw to Federal paychecks. Nobody “earns” the right to define military retirement; the idea behind a generous early retirement was, is and should remain to compensate for the fact that you are not able to work fully after giving the game your fullest measure. Take the funds saved by reinstating the prohibition against double dippers and use it to help those who gave their full measure but did not make it to 20 years.

  26. Donna says

    First let me say I served in the USAF. I do think that things need to change. Maybe up the minimum for retirement to at least 25 years. They recently did that with the Police Departments in NH. People don’t retire from working at 40 years old. Teachers in NH can retire but can not start collecting their retirement until they are 60 years old. I think there should be somewhere in the middle that would be fair. These people are highly trained quaified people why are we so quick to make the retirement 20 years? I don’t even see a problem with 30 years. The Military is a good job/career and still that retirement is probably one of the best if not the best, I don’t know of any other retirement that includes full medical. Pay plus benefits makes the compenstion comparable with many civilian jobs, so to up TIS by 10 years seems fair.
    I know there are a lot of retirees that will be hating this. But if you sit back and think about it you will have to agree with some of this.

  27. Edmund says


    “Yes’ changes do need to be made, but not before it is changed for other members of city and state governments, many who do far less than our brothes and sisters in uniform and who risk nothing more than a paper cut and go home to see their families every night.

    The above so stated, proposal, is that we should not change the entire pension system, however, we do need to modify it especially for those so noted service members who only do a few tours and do not make the 20 years necessary to attain a pension. There should have been several proposals, not merely a single one. There can be a minimum age for which a pension can be drawn, say 50 years old, save those who suffered a combat service disability or should the Vet become unemployable for one reason or another. I want some sort of coverage for those fine young Service Members who did a great few tours for their country, but who did not make the service a lifetime career.

  28. Edmund says

    If we must change the military retiree system, I want the same demands to be made of a lot of these local and state union jobs, where some of these local-yokal folks are getting pensions equal to a four-star flag grade rank! A lot of reachers also are getting pensions equal to that earned by military members. If the military pensions must change, I want some equality for these other professions too.

  29. Katherine Rogers says

    If you serve in the military you get free health care for life. Free? Oh wait, civilians get Obama care so its really not a benefit any more. And really…working under fire means we earned this so its not FREE.

    If you serve in the military you get free college tuition. Oh wait, the Obama administration is moving to make at least junior college free to all Americans.

    Well at least you get a retirement fund that kicks in earlier than that for civilians. Oh wait, your government is taking that away.

    Ok so you get disability pay? Oh wait, your government will fight you for years for every dime and lie to win their case.

    Remind me again, why anyone would go into military service any more?

    What exactly is the Obama administration willing to do for veterans beyond that given to civilians?

    We get the VA? Many of us would very willingly use the University Hospital system in our respective states combined with local primary care.

    Is 20 years in harms way worth 40 years working at home at peace?

    Is the Obama administration willing to compensate you for your lack of safety, lack of time with friends and family, lack of the ability to live in one location and therefore develop equity in a home while in service, and the difference between military pay and civilian pay?

    I don’t see this government as deserving folks wiling to serve in the military until they gain some respect.

    Katherine Rogers
    Currently treated at the VA for conditions that the VA via comp and pen says I don’t have. Why? Because after the office visit, when the doc fills scripts or writes new orders for other conditions…the respective diagnoses for those other conditions don’t go in the medical assessment of the notes. Comp and Pen is under no obligation to review pharmacy orders nor any other orders such as consults or physical therapy. The docs are under no obligation to meet with comp and pen to correct any misunderstanding. I mention this at every opportunity because YOU, a fellow veteran, may have lost with comp and pen because of poor VA charting practice. If its happening to you, your next step is to forward a complaint to your congressional office. Also email me. Im collecting data on this type of VA error.

  30. RMC USN Ret. says

    I don’t know about anyone else but when I signed up in 1968 I had no idea I would make a career out of the military. The defined benefit plan is great no doubt about it but I guess I can see the merit in providing something for the guy that gets out after 10 or more years (and there are a lot of them). I think there would be better acceptance of a melded system i.e. a defined benefit for the guy that puts in 20 or more but perhaps less than the 50%+ that it is now. In addition Uncle Sam puts some percentage of your pay (say 1.5% ) into a 401K and the member can put in more pre-tax dollars if he wishes that would be matched by Uncle Sam up to some ceiling amount (say 10K per year). You would only get the defined benefit annuity if you put in 20 or more years but the 401 K would be yours and fully portable no matter how long you served.

  31. Edgar phelps says

    I have a base ID army base pass for more than 28 years. But I did get in the base the last time I tried.
    I am 100 recent disable and my card never had to be renewed in all these years. What happen ?

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