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Survey: Civilians Care About Military Retirement, Too

A new study shows that the majority of civilians surveyed do not support proposed changes to military retirement benefits, either.

Sixty-eight percent of civilian respondents who said they were familiar with proposed retirement and benefits cuts said they were against the plans. Eighty-three percent of military affiliated respondents said they were against them.

The survey, by First Command Financial Behaviors Index, polled 340 civilians and 200 members of the military with incomes of at least $50,000.

The survey did not lay out to respondents specifics of any proposed benefits or retirement changes -- it simply asked if they were in favor of "proposed changes," that leaders had said changes were needed to save money and build a stronger military, and asked if changes to the retirement system are needed.

The negative response from civilians did not surprise First Command's CEO, Scott Spiker.

"These results are not at all surprising," he said. "Americans are keenly aware of and grateful for the many sacrifices made by service members and their families. Americans feel a responsibility to ensure that our men and women in uniform are properly compensated during and after their military careers. Our survey results indicate that Americans think that making cuts to military retirement benefits is the wrong way to reduce military spending as part of sequestration and defense downsizing.

The results don't surprise me, either. In general I think all people on the surface are against retirement and benefits changes for others. It's just the nice thing to say.

But when it's time for action, or sacrificing other parts of the national budget to keep military benefits and retirement in tact ...  the real questions is -- are civilians willing to do anything about it?

At the Military.com National Spouse Summit May 6, a speaker pointed out the real problem with keeping military retirement. She said only 17 percent of the one percent of Americans who serve in the military ever make it to their military pension.

That means that military retirement only ever impacts a very, very small percentage of the American population. As we have seen from our lawmakers, saying you disagree and action are two different things. When a deal that threw retirees under the bus by decreasing an annual cost-of-living bump became available last year, lawmakers took it -- the same folks who had previously said they did not support changes to retiree benefits.

It's easy to throw a small group of people to the dogs. When your feet are to the first, it's easy to take away their earned benefits.

So, yes, civilians care about military retirement, too. But does the care mean anything?

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