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TSP not for Retirees
Tom Philpott | December 05, 2005

I was very interested in your news column on the new Life Cycle or "L" Funds available through the federal Thrift Savings Plan. Sadly, while I was on active duty there was nothing to offer us except U.S. Savings Bonds.

I am now retired from the military and receive my monthly retirement check. My question is this: Is this TSP program available to retired personnel? If not, why?

As everyone knows, members can hit retirement age in the military as young as 38 to 40 years old. Why would it not be possible to have contributions to a TSP account deducted from our retirement check for investing?

Luquillo, Puerto Rico

Only federal civilian employees, uniformed members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration serving on active duty, and members of the Ready Reserve or National Guard in a pay status may contribute to the TSP.

Thatís because Congress designed the program to be like 401k plans, a tool to allow current employees to defer receipt of part of federal pay to invest for the future. Once they are retired, military personnel and federal civilian workers no longer can contribute to the TSP or any of its funds.

The federal TSP began as an important element of a new retirement plan for federal civilian employees. It was opened to service members a few years ago as a way for current members to build nest eggs regardless of whether they stay in service long enough to retire. Ė Tom Philpott


Whatever happened to the bill to eliminate the Medicare cost for those retirees who enlisted prior to 1956?

TRICARE for Life was most welcomed but given that we were promised free medical care for life, it would seem the next step would be
elimination of the Medicare Part B fees.

Who is stonewalling the passage of that bill?

Via e-mail

The "Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees" bill (HR 602, S 402) has nearly 200 co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate but its momentum has been stalled.

One reason is that while the major military associations support the bill, they have had other legislative priorities to press Congress on including a phased elimination of the age 62 offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan, which was enacted last year; relaxation of the ban on concurrent receipt of both military retirement and VA disability compensation, which is being incrementally achieved; and this yearís goal of ending the dollar-for-dollar reduction in SBP for widows and widowers who also qualify for VA dependency and indemnity compensation. The Senate has approved it, the House has not and a House-Senate conference committee will decide the issue, possibly this month.

Other possible reasons the bill hasnít received serious attention from either of the armed services committees is the cost of war in Iraq, rising federal budget deficits and opposition within the Bush administration and Congress to spending billions of additional dollars on elderly military retirees, particularly given TRICARE for Life, SBP reform and other recent improvements. Ė T.P.


I continue to be amazed at the way some of "America's Finest" will go off to war without hesitation, to make a better life for someone in another country, while fighting like hell to deny the same for the person they swore to love and care for. They risk their lives in a foreign land to stop women from having to wear burqas or to endure beatings from any man who catches them outside unescorted, yet at home say, "I went in harms way, not that woman."

For a majority of military families, that woman functioned as both mother and father to the children, paid the bills, doubled as mechanic, doctor, school teacher, and whatever else she needed to keep the family going no matter how long the service member was away. And I donít want to forget the many men who have joined our ranks in performing the double duty when their service-member wives are away.

I was one of those spouses who, from years of trying to be Mom and Dad, full-time employee and everything else, finally had to retire due to heart attacks and other illnesses. On top of that, my husband played around, which was the last straw for me. I thought I deserved better, and filed for divorce after twenty-three years of marriage.

He thinks I should not have received anything from him after working all those years, without complaint. I went where the military said we had to go. When he retired I got a certificate saying how my contribution was invaluable to his career.

Now, in failing health, I have no TRICARE benefits, no commissary or exchange benefits. I deserve the money I get from his retirement pay. So do the other spouses who held things together and raised the children, even as their spouses fought to give strangers a better life.

Via e-mail

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Copyright 2013 Tom Philpott. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

About Tom Philpott

Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families. Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is Military.com.

Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.