Dec 27 2013
I don’t intend to be a shameless shill in this post. I actually intend to explain monetary issues behind Service and veteran benefits that are of primary interest to you. Unfortunately, to provide the later I’ll risk coming across as the former.
I hear it all the time as I travel and meet people; “What good are you associations and why would I ever want to join?” My answer to their question provides a nice summary of the evolution of some our military and veteran benefits from a financial point of view. Here’s my answer for the benefit of those who ask the above question and for those of you who also get asked this question and want to compare answers.
First off, membership matters. Membership means power on Capitol Hill. 37 million members are why AARP gets attention.
Here is a selection of benefits won through lobbying efforts since 2001 and the resulting financial impacts. This is why membership matters.
- Tricare for Life (TFL). Tricare now acts as our Medicare supplement. Most beneficiaries rarely see a doctor’s bill due to the Medicare-Tricare partnership. Compared to before TFL, substantial money is being saved on medical bills and by not having to buy a Medicare Supplement plan. Combined with the Tricare pharmacy plan, thousands of dollars are saved by retired veterans’ families.
- Post 9-11 GI Bill. For currently serving members, this education program can be transferred to family members. This program pays for tuition, fees, books and housing. This benefit is worth the value of a college degree and more.
- Currently serving pay increases. We estimate currently serving members get 14% more income now versus what they would have received with no lobbying efforts. Higher currently serving income translates to greater retirement pay later.
- Concurrent Receipt; Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) and Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC). These programs restore earned Service retired pay due to years of service that used to be denied to retirees because they accepted VA compensation for disabilities. In other words, it replaces some or all of what the VA Waiver takes away.
- Tricare Prime, Standard and TFL fee increases—or I should say lack of fee increases. We aren’t paying substantially higher fees for Tricare Prime, Standard and TFL that the DOD would have us pay.
- Survivor Benefit Program. Survivors are no longer denied benefits due to Social Security retirement eligibility. Survivors with the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) also get the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).
This is a short list of successes for us. The actual list of military and veteran issues is much greater.
The issues related to the currently serving are of extra significance to us. That is because for one thing they have been bearing the brunt of the war efforts for the last dozen years. Next is because the senior officials in the DOD don’t speak for the troops. The leaders look to find budget cuts by gutting the members’ benefits rather than by finding efficiencies and implementing the reforms necessary within their bloated, ineffective bureaucracies. It’s easier playing politics and taking the path of least resistance. After all, the troops won’t (can’t) disagree.
Generally, associations say what the members in uniform can’t say. We fight for people in uniform and their families. Many Service members won’t join associations partly because of a lack of awareness in what we have accomplished for them or because of misguided loyalty to their leadership on issues regarding their benefits. This isn’t throwing stones at anyone; it’s just what it is. And we understand because we’ve walked in their shoes–their focus is their mission and organization as it should be. We blame ourselves for not getting the real message out better.
The irony is that so many of the Service members think their chain of command is fighting for them. Yet the Service leadership has sought and won reduced pay raises, higher health care fees, reduced cost of living increases in retired pay, and they want to radically overhaul the retirement system to a TSP-based program and a greatly reduced pension benefit that won’t be collected until old age. All in the name of a budget that they say is out of control because the troops want too much and cost too much. Don’t believe it. It’s all, “Tell me what you want to accomplish and I’ll get you the data to back it up.” wool over your eyes.
And when I use the term “association”, I’m not talking all Service/veteran associations. It’s buyer beware out there. Some are propping up the DOD establishment so shop around wisely.
How many more issues could be fixed if we had more solidarity? How much more damage could be prevented? If you wore a uniform, it’s our duty as former leaders to speak up for those who can’t speak.
Not eligible for membership in MOAA? Consider joining Voices for America’s Troops, a subsidiary organization of MOAA, to help support veterans, servicemembers and their families. You can find more information at voicesfortroops.org.