join military
Search for Military News:  
Forum Forum Home | Headlines | Early Brief | Opinions | Discussions | SoldierTech | Benefit Updates | Defense Tech
Comparing Retired Pay
Tom Philpott | February 24, 2006

Readers of Tom Philpott's "Military Update" column sound off.

Comparing Military Retired Pay Across Generations

I read about the intent to raise healthcare fees and deductibles over the next two years for military retirees under age 65. This is an injustice to those of us who have been retired for 10 or more years.

That’s because cost-of-living adjustments to our retirement pay, based changes in the Consumer Price Index, have not kept up with basic pay and allowance increases for active duty member over that time.

I retired in 1992 with almost 22 years of service. A comparison of my annuity with that of an individual retiring this year with the same time in reveals this individual will receive more than $400 a month more in retired pay than I draw. The newly retired member will have over $4800 a year more to offset this TRICARE increase.

I have paid the $460-a-year enrollment for TRICARE Prime without hesitation. It’s affordable and puts something back into the system. Increasing the fee for those of us who can least afford it is an injustice.

There should be a nominal increase or no increase for those having retired in the past 10 to 15 years. Our annuities do not support that kind of increase compared to annuities of those retiring today. Let that generation bear this burden, not the baby boomers who were given Vietnam to chew on and less than a hero's welcome upon return.

Lieutenant Colonel, USA-Ret.
Via e-mail

Recent increases in basic pay, on which retired pay is set, have exceeded retiree cost-of-living adjustments in recent years. Your math is a little off, however, according to the office of the actuary for the Department of Defense.

An O-5 who retired in 1992 with 22 years of service draws retired pay of $3,481 a month. An officer of the same rank and length of service retiring in 2006 receives $3,640. The annuity difference is $159 a month, $1908 a year.

We have a comparison of enlisted retirees too. An E-7 who retired in 1992 after 20 years now receives $1,433 a month versus $1660 for an E-7 with 20 years retiring this year. The difference is $227 a month, $2724 a year.

The enlisted disparity is wider because of a few bigger "targeted" pay raises senior enlisted grades received in recent years to close a wider pay gap with private sector workers of comparable age and education.

The retiree pay disparities across generations would be more prominent, perhaps on the order you suggested, if not for a change in the military retirement formula that dampens annuities of retirees who first entered the military on or after Sept. 8, 1980.

Your retired pay is based on a more generous "final basic pay" formula. Retirees who joined the military after Sept. 8, 1980, come under the High-3 formula. Their retired pay is based on a percentage of average basic pay over their highest-three military earning years. High-3 lowers the value of military retirement 5 to 7 percent.

To make the pay comparisons above, the actuary made certain assumption including that 2006 retirees retire at mid-year and had no promotions in their final three years of service. – Tom Philpott


You wrote, "Rumsfeld said low fees have turned TRICARE into a ‘magnet’ for working-age military retirees who increasingly are encouraged by civilian second-career employers to use TRICARE rather than company health plans."

I spent 20-plus years serving my country to be able to use these benefits.

Via e-mail


I would not have a problem paying double to enroll in TRICARE if TRICARE would make Payson, Ariz., an area authorized for a primary care manager. I currently have to drive over 100 miles to see my doctor for anything, even though she has an office three miles down the road from me.

There are a lot of military retiree’s in this area stuck in the same boat.

Via e-mail


Your recent article on the proposed TRICARE retiree fee increases mentioned that some employers were offering cash incentives to military retirees who opted not to sign up for the company-sponsored health plan. The implication was that the employer was specifically targeting military retirees, paying them to use TRICARE.

This is not a new practice for many companies, nor is it directed specifically to military retirees eligible for TRICARE. It simply is recognition that many families are "two-income" and have two employer-sponsored healthcare options. Employees can choose which plan best meets their needs. Because compensation packages include benefits, a really nice employer pays their employee a portion of what the employer is saving by not enrolling in the plan. It has nothing to do with TRICARE eligibility.

Williamsburg, Va. 


I have been on both sides of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. My ex-husband willingly gave me a set dollar amount of his retirement when we divorced, saying I deserved it. I had been involved in many things on bases where we were stationed. While not directly promoting his career, I'm sure I didn't hurt it. His commanding officer even nominated me for Military Spouse of the Year and I was selected. Our family was honored twice as Military Family of the Year.

I am now married to another retired member who has to give his ex-wife half of his retirement. She did nothing to further his career, even calling his CO every time she got mad and didn't get her way. Since we've been married, she has used his Social Security number and personal information to sign him up for junk and even credit cards over the Internet. We traced the Internet protocol address to her employer.

There should be some kind of stipulation in the law that an ex-spouse must be a model ex to continue to receive a share of retirement.

From what I've read, the ex can be a felon and in prison and still receive their part of retirement. That isn't right!

C. W.
Via e-mail

Letters may be edited for clarity or length.  Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA  20120-1111, send e-mail to militaryforum@aol.com or visit www.militaryupdate.com

Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

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.