If you haven’t read “I’m an Army veteran, and my benefits are too generous”, read it before reading this response.
Before we can even begin to talk about benefits, military pay, or even military life, we need to first address the unspeakable constants that most don’t want to state:
- There is a huge difference in culture, in experience, and in opinions between those who served in a peacetime military and those who have served during wartime.
Honestly, even if you served during Somalia, Grenada, Panama, and even Desert Storm, the majority of your career was spent in a peacetime military. That doesn’t take away from your service, but it does shape how you viewed the sacrifices of your service.
- Don’t confuse National Guard or Reserve service with Active Duty service.
Let’s be serious, until recently, if you were in the National Guard or Reserves, you did your one weekend a month and two weeks a year time, then went back home to your family and your job. You were never forced to move. Even during our recent wars, there was still a divide between Active Duty service and Reserve/National Guard service.
- Congress, Americans, and veteran service organizations only debate the care of retirees, not veterans, when discussing retiree pay and benefits.
According to military.com “83% of servicemembers don’t get a pension, even after serving for 10 or 15 years.” Remember the whole 1% COLA reduction rate debate? Well that doesn’t help a Marine who enlisted to fight America’s enemies, and then got out after doing so for 4 years.
- Don’t confuse enlisted pay and benefits with those of officers.
Even after I earned my graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and became a GS-14 in the government, I still have shit bird Captains, the Army O-3 kind, trying to talk down to me when I interact with the military, because my I.D. states “SSG(ret) Lawton-Belous”. If you don’t think that bias translates into pay or care, you’re horribly mistaken.
- Going to war meant different things to different people.
- Military pay and benefits aren’t terrible.
In fact, they’re pretty good.
Much of the conversation that plagues the media and veterans group is either black or white. Either veterans and servicemembers are living in a wonderland of benefits and pay, or veterans and servicemembers are eking out a living from the scraps of the federal government’s largesse.
It’s like being a Sergeant and listening to your Private First Class complain about how he isn’t being paid enough and yet he drives a BMW. You’re thinking, “In what reality is this guy living”?
It’s not that either side is lying, it’s that both sides are focused on a particular class, a particular benefit, or a one-off event. It is easy for us to berate the Veterans Administration and the healthcare that it provides to veterans as being sub-par, while at the same time another group is holding up Tricare as an overused and over subsidized benefit. We discuss the military’s lack of providing and requiring civilian certifications for certain military specialties, while at the same time holding up the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill as a staple for advancement.
Yet none of these strikes at the heart of why military benefits are the way they are. We can list dollar figures for benefits (I have in previous articles) and we can talk about how military jobs are incomparable with civilian jobs. We could go on and on, until every superficial point of contention was raised. But, the real question is a question of value. That’s it. It’s a question, which is as simple to understand, as it is complex to formulate.
For many Americans, the value can be boiled down into one question, “How much do you value not needing to worry about your son or daughter being drafted into or required to serve in the military"?
Equality and feminism should require females to take part in a draft as well.
For the federal government and the military the question is similar but reversed, “How much do you value not needing to worry about incorporating draftees and those forced to serve in the military”?
I admit, I do not know the value that would be derived from either group. Therefore, I, and most others, can’t know for certain whether or not our benefits are overly generous.
Figuring out the going market based rate on a life for Americans, and discipline/esprit de corps for the military and government is kind of difficult.
The second issue faced by most in deciding whether or not the benefits received by veterans and those in the military are too generous, is the amount that the benefits would be worth in the civilian sector. Neither many Americans, nor many of those in the military and veteran community financially understand the value of the benefits that they receive.
What is the monetary value of a VA home loan? What is the value of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill? What is the monetary value of a military pension? What is the monetary value lost by those in the military not having a matching 401K plan? I’ll answer those questions in a future article.
Suffice it to say, and with all due respect to the retired Lieutenant Colonel, your service might have produced overly generous benefits, but retiring the year that America was attacked and not re-joining the military to protect your country (after never having gone to war), negates your stance on military benefits being received by this generation of men and women, because let’s face it, the military has changed since you left and the majority of men and women who have worn the uniform since 2001 have gone to war.