It’s an ongoing challenge for the U.S. government to attract and retain quality military recruits. When men and women sign up, they receive notice of the terms of service and potential retirement benefits. The government enters into a compact of sorts with these patriotic citizens in exchange for their service to the country.
That’s why it bothered me that a portion of the budget deal approved by the majority of Congress reduced military retired pay for service members under the age of 62 and applied the change to current service members and retirees. It’s one reason I voted against the budget deal. A retroactive reduction in benefits is unfair to the service members who signed up under different terms. The United States would be morally wrong and strategically unwise to break a promise to service members. Current service members might feel like the targets of a bait-and-switch to get them to enlist. Future service members might resist enlisting, fearing their employer would change the terms of their employment mid-stream. Since the United States relies on an all-volunteer military, fair treatment of those who have signed on the dotted line is key to recruitment.
Last week, the House of Representatives crafted a bill that completely eliminates the reduced military retired pay for members of the armed forces who joined prior to Jan. 1, 2014. I voted in favor of the legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 95 to 3. The legislation has now been signed into law by President Obama.
Reversing the retroactivity is the right approach. The change in military retired pay is meant as a cost savings, which debt and deficits demand, but treating military members unfairly is a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to spending problems.