Allen B. West

Enlisted retirees speak out about COLA cuts

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Recently we reported about the four retired senior officers — three generals and one admiral — who supported the decision to cut the annual military and medically disabled retiree Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) by one percent until the retiree reaches the age of 62.

Of course, not one of those flag officers would be affected by the decision, and one of them served in the Obama administration as the National Security Advisor, Marine General James Jones. Any wonder why enlisted troops can’t stand certain officers?

According to Patricia Kime writing in the Military Times, six retired sergeants major, master chiefs and chief master sergeants are speaking out on behalf of those who will be affected if the cuts are not repealed by Congress. They are:

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■ Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy
■ Retired Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent
■ Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa
■ Retired Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley
■ Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Charles “Skip” Bowen
■ Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Vince Patton

Kime tells the story of Chip Hoynes who retired from the Coast Guard in 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer (E7), landing a high-paying job with a defense contractor in the same field he worked in on active duty.

But several years later, the company went bankrupt, and Hoynes, a former chief operations specialist, found himself jobless. Now Hoynes and his wife must rely on his $1,600-a-month military retirement pay (after taxes, health care and insurance payments) and her small retail salary to pay the bills.

If the cost-of-living adjustment reduction to military retired pay included in the Bipartisan Budget Act goes into effect in December 2015, the retired chief, now 50, stands to lose as much as $55,000 in retirement pay over his lifetime.

To House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) this honorable retiree who, like me, gave 22 years of his life in service to our nation doesn’t matter. As Ryan said “these are retirees who are still of working age.” And so for 6 billion pieces of silver, Ryan, like Judas Iscariot, has betrayed those who have been willing to give the last full measure of devotion to this nation and broke the promise this nation made to them. But as always, it ain’t sitting pretty with some retired top enlisted men.

Kime says more than 840,000 working-age retirees will see a 1-percentage-point cut to their annual retirement pay increases starting in 2016.

Think about that one number: 840,000. Our congress and President Obama are breaking their promise to 840,000 men and women, telling them they are the cause of fiscal irresponsibility in Washington DC.

There are close to 350,000,000 Americans and 840,000 have to be sacrificed to support the legislative budgetary process? That’s two-tenths of a percent. All over $6 billion? You mean to tell me that lawmakers in Washington DC — Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray specifically — could not find $6 billion dollars elsewhere? Hmm, will one of them explain to retired Chief Chip Hoynes and his wife that a Member of Congress only needs to serve 5 years to earn 70 percent retirement, for life (since it goes to the spouse upon death of the Member)?

Or perhaps explain it to recently retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy who said,

“You don’t join the military to get rich. There are a lot of sacrifices. There are PCS moves. There are bullets flying overhead. We’re still fighting a war, and now we are talking about reducing the COLA? I don’t get it.”

Well, I get it considering the number of millionaires in Congress, not to mention the President, who have never served and signed this insidious budget into law.

If President Obama wants to talk about fairness and income inequality perhaps he should listen to retired Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley. “I’ve been in and out of Afghanistan 16 times … and was fighting in the streets of Saigon when I was 18 years old. When you have people like myself who have dedicated our lives to the military and then they want to start cutting on benefits, it’s sort of unfair,” Tilley said.

None of the flag officers who spoke in favor of the cuts would be affected by the reductions. The three four-stars will earn, combined, more than $560,800 in retirement pay in 2014.

Tonight, if the Commander-in-Chief wants to earn back a small modicum of respect from the US military, he will address this issue and state that he and Congress were wrong and will immediately rectify the situation. As well, I admonish every military retiree, veteran, and currently serving member of our Armed Forces to find out if your Congressional Representative — mine did, by the way– or Senator voted for this cut. If so, look for them tonight and ensure they will not be sitting there much longer.

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