Military Retirement Pay Changes – Congress to Change Military Retiree Benefits

Military Retirement Changes are on the agenda in Congress.

Military retirement changes and military pay cuts have been highlighted in Internet discussions, and on September 18, 2011, the issue was raised by James Dao and Mary Williams Walsh in the New York Times article, Retiree Benefits for the Military Could Face Cuts.

Most of the article reiterated issues already brought up in 2011:

  • Government needs to reduce government debt
  • Military retired pay is an expensive government expense, so let’s cut that

The article brought up two areas believed by some to be unfair:

  • Veterans with twenty years of service are eligible to begin receiving military retired benefits immediately (without waiting until age 65)
  • Those leaving service with less than twenty years receive no pay, and this includes those who may have served in combat areas.

Congress Thinks “Retiree Benefit Changes” means Changing the “Military Pension”

  • The Military Pension:There is no pension for the military. More accurately, there is military retainer pay – pay received for reduced service – so our country can recall service members when needed.The New York Times reported, “Steve Griffin of Tallahassee, Fla., is the type of soldier the defense board is trying to appeal to: a former captain who did two tours in Iraq, he left the Army in 2010 after five years of service and thus receives no pension.”Steve Griffin receives no pension, but he will also not be recalled back to service. (Note: Steve Griffin does not support the changes proposed by Congress.)If the proposed changes took place, will the 5 year retiree be potentially called back to service?

Military Retirement Changes Impact Military Spouses (the USFSPA):

  • Congress proposes military retiree benefit changes to bring military retainer pay in line with typical pension plans; to give a “military retirement pension” to those serving less than twenty years.Perhaps those who serve less than twenty years will embrace this type of change. (Steve Griffin, above, would then receive pay.)Former spouse can rejoice too. Now the courts will be able to split, divide, or slice up this new “retirement pension” in any military divorce.The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) permits courts to divide the disposable military retainer pay of retired service members. For a former military spouse to receive a division of pay, the service member must actually “retire,” which currently happens on or after twenty years. But with the new proposal, the military service member could now receive retirement pay after, for example, five years – and this can, by law, now be divided with the former spouse. (I wonder how appealing this is to our current service members.)

Former Military Spouse Benefits: Commissary and Health Benefits

  • Beyond the division of pay, will the new rules also provide commissary and medical benefits to former military spouses? Currently, there is a 20-20-20 rule (dependent on years of marriage overlapped with years of military service) impacting former military spouse’s use of the commissary and medical benefits. If now service members will be able to “retire” at 5 years, let’s not forget about the former military spouses. Do we now add corresponding verbiage for a new 5-5-5 rule whereby former military spouses would now only need a five year overlap to receive commissary and medical benefits? A little absurd? I think so.


The New York Times reported that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said, “We’ve got to put everything on the table,” – but the fact is – we do not. Military retirement benefits shouldn’t be a factor in solving the government budget deficit.

Keeping an Eye on Future Military Retiree Pay Changes

More ideas on changes to retired pay are currently being discussed in Congress. At the moment, they appear to only impact non-retired service members:

2014 COLA Changes Impact Military Retirement Pay – #KeepYourPromise

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