Serve Your Country, Then Bend Over

Imagine that you’ve spent 20 years working for a company who promised you, in writing, that if you stuck it out for the full 2 decades with them, you could retire with a pension (50% of pay) and full medical benefits. That’s the contract: 20 years for full medical and a pension.

Now, imagine what you would do if you reached that 20 year mark and they turned around and said “Well, no. We meant it when we said it, but we changed our minds. You have to pay for your medical.”

You’d sue their asses, right?

Military members don’t have that luxury. They are property of the U.S. Government, and as such don’t have the right to sue Uncle Sam on their own behalf. So when, years back, the government decided to not honor that part of the contract and shifted medical benefits to the HMO-like TriCare, hundreds of thousands of military retirees found themselves faced with losing their medical care, unless they were willing to pay hefty premiums for what had been promised to them for free.

These are the guys who served in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam. These are the guys who uprooted themselves at the government’s whim, frequently, moving their families with them, to every corner of the world, serving this country with not just their sweat, but their blood as well. To thank them, the rug was yanked right out from their feet, the promise reneged on.

It took several years for them to get back that “free” medical care. Recently TriCare For Life was implemented, giving retirees back their medical care. Sort of. They also must be enrolled in Medicare, which becomes the primary payee on medical costs. But, essentially, they got back their care.

That leaves the pension promised. For the most part, if you serve 20 years in the military, you get a pension that equals 50% of your base pay (it does not include any housing or subsistence allowances). If you gut it out for 30, you get 75% of your base pay.

If you leave the military officially disabled and can’t work because of that disability, you get screwed by a law that prohibits the military retiree from drawing a pension in excess of a disability check.

In a nutshell, that means that if a civilian retires from a private company and has a pension of $2000 a month, is certified disabled and his disability check is $1500, he has an income of $3500 a month. If a military member retires with a pension of $2000 a month, is qualified for disability at $1500 a month, he has an income of… $2000 a month. $1500 of that is disability, and his pension drops to $500.

Those are generous numbers, by the way. A $2000 pension is for the ranks of major and above. Junior officers and enlisted won’t see that kind of money.

The numbers don’t matter, though What matters is that this is legal discrimination, invoked on people by the government they spent the better part of their lives serving.

Spend your career on your knees loading bombs or repairing airplanes, destroy your lungs while serving as a Fuel Specialist, or have them seared from the fires in Kuwait… Become 100% disabled – meaning you cannot work after your 20 years are up - while serving your country, and you will not get the pension to which you are entitled.

Most retirees go on to other careers; they have the ability to earn for themselves a second income, enough to put bread on the table and their kids through school. Disabled retirees, however, cannot work. They don’t have the options. And then they’re expected to live on anywhere from a few hundred to about $1200 a month. Pretax dollars.

If they were civilian, they would get both their pension and disability.

And people wonder why I want a generations-long tradition of military service to end with my husband. Why I don’t want my son in the military.

Why would I?

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