Military Advantage

Philpott's Forum: Understanding Retiree's COLA Cap Anger


Philpott's Forum is dedicated to sharing the opinion, insight, and questions posted by readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update. The following is a sampling of the responses to a recent article about the CPI -1% cap placed on the annual cost-of-living-adjustments in military retirement pay.

To Rep. Paul Ryan: For me personally not a day goes by when there is not a chance I will be placed in harm's way as an active duty EOD technician. Deployed or at home I still face most of the same dangers and risks. Everyday I leave my family knowing it could possibly be the last day I ever see them.

This “generous” retirement, as you call it, is how we are paid back for our dedication and service to country. I will still serve and do my duties like any good soldier, but I would like to see representatives who voted yes on this come here and do my job for one day, then look me in the eye to tell me what they are taking away.

Do one walk-down on an IED like I have done. Feel what it is like to hope and pray the next step isn't the last step. Experience the chill that goes through my body as I recite in my mind a short prayer for my family, silently sending an “I love you” to my four kids before taking that first step towards initial success or total failure as I clear an area most likely booby trapped with one or more well hidden devices so others are safe from harm.

Most people have no idea what sacrifices we have made for this nation, the stress we feel in those situations or the stress it causes us afterwards. I don't ask that a representative walk a mile in my shoes but come walk 100 yards before you take what had been promised to all of us who have served.

Is it a generous benefit? Yes. But when was the last time you put your life at risk for your country as I do often and repeatedly.

I ask other fellow veterans, service members and retirees to share their personal story with the world and their representatives as to how they earned this “generous” benefit. HENRY ZELEK Via email

P.S. -- The picture below was taken last month, just after I disposed of five IEDs and cleared an underground tunnel complex, crawling on my belly 200 meters in the pitch-black darkness, all in a few hours.  Then I slept in some Afghan farmer’s field in the freezing cold (below 32 degrees) with no sleeping bag because I carry too much gear needed to do my job, about 115 pounds over my body weight, for miles. I am the one on the far right. Pretty sure I earned my benefit -- in just that one day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



So Congress effectively voted to raise taxes only on military retirees at the rate of 1 percent per year, retirees who worked for low pay defending this country. But they didn't raise taxes on the general population or on the extremely wealthy. How is this fair and balanced?

The ultraconservatives have talked about a flat tax for decades. Maybe it is time to do that; tax all income; no deductions, no top out on social security or Medicare taxes; no stashing income overseas. If you are an American citizen, or a foreigner living here, it is all taxed. All in. PHIL TAYLOR Via email

How is this not a breach of contract?

We sign a commitment to serve, understanding we would receive certain benefits. What I would like to see is a study to show how much we would save if we cut the outrageous retirement package of the Congress.

We also need to look at reducing foreign aid. We give billions and never get back anything. This COLA cap makes all of us in the military wonder why we serve, leave our families behind and travel to places where we often are hated to live in conditions many wouldn't keep their pets.

I am disgusted with the finger pointing and blaming the other party. Both parties are destroying this country. DAVIDE FRANK Master Sergeant Via email

Comments from Paul Ryan such as younger military retirees have second jobs anyway show how [uninformed] he is.It amazes me that people making these decisions have not a clue about serving in the military. Doing 20 years in the armed forces is not like any other job in the world. JIMMY M. DUNCAN Sergeant First Class, USA-Ret. Sierra Vista, Ariz.

They have asked these young people to fight two wars for the past 12-years and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is worried about personnel and compensation costs? They should be cutting back on purchasing equipment, like aircraft that they still buy and park here at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. ALBERT MUDGE Chief Warrant Officer, USA-Ret. Tucson, Ariz.

Tell Congressman Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, my senior senator, that it’s a “cost-of-living” increase, the point being to keep pace with the cost of living. How the hell is that too generous?

You want to cut somebody's pay, cut your own pay. EDDIE KEMP Via email

How about congressional compensation reform?

Why do we continue to allow Congress to pass legislation that doesn't affect them, whether it's medical care, pension cuts or tax rules. I’m been serving my country for almost 28 years. I am amazed at what an embarrassment Congress continues to be to this nation. C. CORAL Via email

This COLA cap is a disgrace. I have one son-in-law in Kosovo, an adopted son who has served three tours in Iraq and two granddaughters in the Army. They are serving their country and here we are cutting their pensions. My suggestion is to cut congressional pensions. They do nothing to protect the people or to fight for this country. I pray they all get voted out. NANCY REYNOLDS Via email

I earned my pension. I didn't go back on my promise to the government when it needed me. Now that need has passed and I am being kicked in the face. Google the pay scale for members of Congress and tell me whose pay should be cut to make a dent in the budget. G. A. WASH Via email

This is beyond betrayal, given lip service from elected officials about gratitude and respect for what service members do for the country. Actions speak louder than their phony words.

As a retired Marine, I would advise those considering a military career to note that elected representatives do not look out for you nor do they value their dedication and sacrifice. LAWRENCE TORTOA Via email

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