Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 3, 2014

Veterans can show the way to cut debt

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — This letter probably will anger a lot of outstanding Americans. I am concerned, though, about what I see as widespread misunderstanding regarding the current proposal to “cut military retirement benefits,” as so many have characterized it. I myself am not a veteran, but as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, I spent 20 years working with and for the military, deploying and pulling temporary duty beside them in several war-torn countries. I believe that no one supports our armed forces more strongly than I do. However, I do feel that the proposal to limit the annual cost of living allowance (COLA) by 1 percent for those younger than 62 is not an unreasonable step by which to address the growing cost of this program. 

My primary goal is to inform people that no one has endorsed any plan to cut actual existing retirement benefits. The proposal that came out of the budget deal only seeks to slow the rate of increase. In the mid-1980s, I chose to change my federal retirement plan to one that included this COLA-minus-one provision. I did this knowing that it would cost me money down the road, but I was willing to make a small sacrifice in order to save taxpayers some money in the aggregate. If we are ever to get a handle on our ballooning federal deficits and our national debt, someone at some time will need to make at least some small sacrifice. Most people support the idea of cutting the bloated federal budget. But when asked if the cuts should affect them, the answer becomes a resounding “no!”

Let’s also be clear about the nature of military retirement. Most military retirees are young men who have served for approximately 20 years. Military retirement is not what you would call lucrative, so most seek employment after they retire from the service. As such, military retirement income is a supplementary program, not a primary retirement system. I do believe that those who have retired on military disability should not be included in this COLA adjustment, as this may affect these individuals’ sole or primary source of income.

Our nation is staring bankruptcy in the face. Perhaps not now, but somewhere down the road if we do not reform some federal programs. Veterans could exemplify at least one means of doing so by accepting this change in the system. As they have done in the past, vets can show the way again.

Richard Haggerty