What country pays for your school, both college and advanced degrees, provides a state-paid pension, indexed to inflation, after 20 years of service (regardless of age) plus health insurance at nominal cost for life then allows you to take a second job which allows one to put money away in a private pension fund and then, after you retire a second time at age 60, with two pensions, pays for another round of college education? If you guessed Greece, Italy, France or any of the socialist basket-case countries of the world you would be wrong. The answer is the United States and the group receiving this largesse are military veterans. Is it any wonder that reputable organizations and think tanks are predicting that by the middle of the next decade there will be no money left in the defense budget to pay for current operations?
Retired military pilots like to talk amongst themselves about the number of their brethren currently flying for major commercial airlines who also are receiving Veterans Administration disability payments. It turns out that it is not altogether uncommon for retiring military pilots to “fail” portions of their exit exams in order to earn some degree of tax-free disability payments in addition to their regular pensions and then turn around and pass the FAA and airline certifications with flying colors. The VA will not share their roster of disabled pilots either with the FAA or the airlines for reasons of privacy protection of personal medical information.
There are other examples of benefits policies run amok. I have heard a number of stories of two earner military families both of whom maintain residences in states with no income taxes and who are both entitled to housing allowances when stationed elsewhere – even if they are together.
Few of these examples of excess are actually illegal. Rather, they reflect Congress’s willingness to shower benefits on our men and women in uniform without much thought as to the budgetary consequences. The G.I. Bill has been made available to all military members, including retirees. Is this a good use of scarce resources? Is it fair to those just entering the military who may have to go without equipment, training or their own advanced education?
If we want to continue this way, showering rewards on those who make the commitment to national service then we as a nation need to factor that into our defense spending. Instead of cutting the defense budget it needs to be increased to take into account the rewards that are being made available to those who serve.
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