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Old 03-13-2008, 07:35 PM   #21
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For a second there I had hope of collecting at 57, but its active duty only. I guess I still have to wait till age 60...

Only 18 years 5 months to go!

9 years, 3 months. (To Start drawing my reserve check) Wanna trade? We'll trade ages and checks!!
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Old 03-13-2008, 08:07 PM   #22
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Bet that could have been said by/about MegaCorp employees many years ago too...and look what happened (is happening). Yet MegaCorp goes on.
The only time I've ever seen the JCS put aside their backstabbing weapons and sing in harmony to Congress was when they reported that REDUX was killing retention. Even the Marines were concerned.

It's good to have a dialogue about military benefits, but at some point people will realize that a career of sailing into harm's way for marginally better benefits can't compete with a career of Megacorps.

I remember a retention meeting in the late 1990s when a flag officer admonished a roomful of lieutenants that they couldn't expect to get out of the Navy with five years' experience and earn a six-figure salary. One of the lieutenants raised his hand and said "Sir, my wife has less experience and she's already earning a six-figure salary. I'm thinking about getting out to support her career. How about your wife?"
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Old 03-13-2008, 08:52 PM   #23
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I've read in several places that the military retirement system is not much of a recruiting tool. It's primary value is in retention.

The present system is incredibly powerful at keeping folks once they've passed the 15 year point. Even the potential to convert time to a Reserve retirement is relatively small potatoes compared to an immediate-and-forever 50% if you make 20 years. There are an incredible number of crappy (but somebody-has-to-do-it) assignments and locations that get filled by people who are "over the hump" and can't afford to say no. Any proposal that changes things to allow vesting at an earlier point, or which will not allow drawing a check until 60 YO+ is going to cause many people to decide to get out of uniform rather than stick around for 5 years of rough road.

In many careers, the fun is front-loaded. If the retirement system changes, a lot of other things would have to change, too. Maybe that wouldn't be all bad -- but I think it would be mostly bad.
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Old 03-14-2008, 03:03 PM   #24
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The present system is incredibly powerful at keeping folks once they've passed the 15 year point. Even the potential to convert time to a Reserve retirement is relatively small potatoes compared to an immediate-and-forever 50% if you make 20 years.
Spouse made her retention decision three weeks short of the 18-year point, and as we learned later about 24 hours short of being issued mandatory two-year orders.

At the time we estimated it as a $750K decision. We decided to be poorer and happy, saying "It's only money". Her assignment officer was apoplectic astounded.

She's since earned a Reserve promotion that she never would have received on active duty because her community was way too pissed off at her due to outstanding PACOM service after 9/11. Since those days I've generated a spreadsheet showing that if she lives to be 89 years old then her Reserve pension at the higher rank will have accumulated more than an active-duty pension at the lower rank. Of course that depends on a number of assumptions that may or may not come to pass.

But it's another life goal...
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Old 03-14-2008, 03:08 PM   #25
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I'm sorry, but collecting a pension at 38 is ludicrous unless one is disabled. I'd be okay with a pension as early as age 50, though.
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Old 03-14-2008, 03:22 PM   #26
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Ziggy29 thanks for the apology; it is appreciated but not necessary!

I was 38, born 10/40 Retired 7/79. See #16, above, for a partial AD resume (would have been 13 months earlier except I had to serve out a promotion "lock in"). I did not, nor did anyone else, that I know of, see anything wrong with it, at the time. BTW I and my 2 Sons have a combined total in excess of 50 years military AD between us and one, not me obliviously, is still counting.
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Old 03-14-2008, 03:37 PM   #27
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Having worked mega-corp my whole life, I have to say I have yet to be shot at or bombed, so I'm going to say I can live with the military getting retirement pay at 38.

On a lower level, I've noticed a significant amount of my co-workers who are retired military have low level disabilities and chronic pain issues. I think the market, by and large, has determined a fair price. Somebody who can get into the Naval Academy can also get into Harvard/Yale. I think Butterbars get paid just a bit less than Ivy League Grads.
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Old 03-14-2008, 04:38 PM   #28
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In my limited experience it seems that there are 3 main reasons people stay in the military:

1. For the retirement pay.
2. For the medical coverage.
3. The predictability.

You mess with any of the above 3 and many people will simply get out.
I would add a fourth, at least in my case. In spite of the hardships, there are some truly enjoyable things about a military career. I, for one, enjoyed working at the leading edge of some aerospace programs. True, I didn't do that beginning on day one, and reasons 1 and 2 probably kept me in until I was able to do fun things, but I wouldn't discount enjoyment as a reason many stay in. About your #3, .... not sure how predictability lines up with not knowing when you'll be having to pack up, take the kids out of school, and go off to who knows where and do who knows what.

But I do agree with you that retirement is the #1 thing. Take that away, and hello mercenary military a la French Foreign Legion.
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Old 03-15-2008, 02:10 PM   #29
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I for one would be very cautious about messing around with the retirement benefits of those people who bear the burden of protecting our freedoms. For those of us who have done 20 as some of the 1% who keep the other 99% free reducing the retirement of those who defend this country is very offensive to me.
For who have not served because " it just wasn't your thing'" some solider, sailor, or airman has had to endure many many hardships in the name of Duty. Instead of trying to diminish what they are entitled to in retirement at 38 or at 60 or anywhere in between you should work on increasing the benefit package to retain the best in defense of freedom.
If you're not willing to pay for it in $$$$ or by serving in the military then start to learn the Koran as your days of freedom are numbered and you'll only have yourself to blame.
This country has battled Islamic fanaticism for the last 200 years (Barbary Pirates) and we will continue to be able to do so only as long as our military is supported and respected by the citizens.
Trying to save a few billion in the defense budget while congress puts billions in pork (earmarks) every year into the annual budget is disgusting. Of course the members of the military do not make up a sizable voting block and can be ignored.

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Is the typical attitude of most people who live here.
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Old 03-16-2008, 08:16 AM   #30
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The post above, IMO, is why meaningful discussions on reforming a benefit we can't afford will never occur. Anyone who mentions it will immediately be branded as someone who doesn't appreciate the sacrifices our soldiers make for us day after day, and anyone who "supports the troops" couldn't possibly consider such a thing. As you can see above, it's considered a lack of "respect" to even discuss it.

With that card being played on anyone who thinks collecting a pension at 38 is ridiculous in the general case, the discussion is a non-starter. It's a third-rail issue just as Social Security is to the AARP crowd. It's a card for which virtually no counter is available.

I for one do not want to water down the *overall* pay and benefits packages our soldiers get. If anything, I'd increase them a little. But defined benefit pensions are killing us economically, and I'd much prefer to see more pay up front, and perhaps greater employer contributions into TSP or some such. And a generous pension starting at an age that's younger than most is still out there in any event. (I'd prefer 50, not 57.)

Yet even the slightest hint of discussing how to tweak pay and benefits to match the current realities of unfunded entitlements and how they are a time bomb waiting to go off is met as if it's peeing on the grave of every patriot who ever gave his/her life for their country. It's no wonder why almost no one is willing to talk about it, especially in the post-9/11 world. It's just like people advocating Social Security reform are accused of wanting to throw Grandma out in the streets. Any talk of reform is immediately met with the accusation that you're against a group that no reasonable, well-meaning people can be against.

Federal pension entitlements are killing us along with unfunded Social Security and Medicare promises.

Earmarks are a separate issue -- you don't have to ignore one source of overall spending to be concerned about another. With a $400 billion deficit, there are a lot of things we need to be looking at. I don't think this issue is a particularly large priority in the grand scheme, but I think some tweaks are needed to look at current economic realities.

[Edit to add: And for what it's worth, NO one who's already in should have the deal changed on them. Period.]
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Old 03-16-2008, 08:51 AM   #31
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Is the typical attitude of most people who live here.
Speaking of "very offensive"...

I believe everyone here has said that we're absolutely not for changing the rules on those who are in - period. But to say nothing can be changed ever ignores the reality that all of us are facing. I do respect your service whether it's been in combat or not, but I'd have to agree with ziggy's sentiments by and large.
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Old 03-19-2008, 04:32 PM   #32
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With that card being played on anyone who thinks collecting a pension at 38 is ridiculous in the general case, the discussion is a non-starter. It's a third-rail issue just as Social Security is to the AARP crowd. It's a card for which virtually no counter is available.
Oooohkay... how 'bout firefighters and police officers?

Yo, Leonidas, you still out there to provide your perspective on this discussion?
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Old 03-19-2008, 07:37 PM   #33
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I spent 20 years in the AF. I flew the entire 20 years. The first 10 were exciting, challenging, interesting and down right fun. I would have stayed at lower pay, and could have cared less about the pension. From 10 to 20 the time away from family, missed birthdays, being shot at, and BS or some commanders wore very thin, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.

My guess is if you radically change the retirement system, the AF will have an extremal difficult time keeping pilots. Let's see: Air Lines -work 80 hr a month, get paid twice to three times more, no additional duties, no command bs, sleep in a hotel when away from home or Air Force - work 168 hours a week, when not flying you are range officer, safety officer, mobile officer, supervisor of flying, supply officer, moral officer, sleep in a tent when away from home, and your wings are held on with Velcro to make them easier to take away.
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Old 03-20-2008, 06:47 AM   #34
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While I served I trained with the goal of retiring at 20 years service. My thought was since the job was so dangerous if you had anything left after 20 years you probably did not train hard enough. The job fits the physically demanding portion of the FERS retirement systems description of a law enforcement/fire fighter retirement, perfectly. Any changes to the military retirement should not make it worse than the FERS law enforcement/fire fighter retirement. 25 and out or 20 years at 57 years old. Any modification that lessens the military retirement to worse than the law enforcement/fire fighter retirement is a slap in the face of every military member.

On a personal note they got rid of REDUX as a bad idea. This retirement proposal is worse than that so I seriously doubt it will be implemented.
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Old 03-20-2008, 07:36 AM   #35
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I don't see anyone saying a pension shouldn't be waiting for someone after 20 years of service here. I just think collecting on it shouldn't start until at least age 50-55...like the rest of us, at least the fortunate few who still *have* pensions.

Obviously if you became disabled in service or some such, it's another matter.

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Any modification that lessens the military retirement to worse than the law enforcement/fire fighter retirement is a slap in the face of every military member.
Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion about this without the emotional rhetoric as if people are looking to pee on the grave of every dead soldier, cop or firefighter who died in the line of duty? This is exactly why some issues can NOT be solved in this country.

The bottom line is that defined benefit pension plans are bankrupting companies and sending some cities to the brink. We just can't afford them like we used to any more -- especially not when someone is 37-38 and probably has 50 years left to collect it between them and their spouse.
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Old 03-20-2008, 09:38 AM   #36
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Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion about this without the emotional rhetoric as if people are looking to pee on the grave of every dead soldier, cop or firefighter who died in the line of duty? This is exactly why some issues can NOT be solved in this country.
Apparently not, but that hasn't stopped any of the other threads on this board.

Your appeal for reasonability should acknowledge that there are career fields which may seem interesting, even exciting-- yet carry a high degree of risk or, shall we say, "perishable" skills. I think even a steely-eyed green-eyeshade-wearing accountant would have to acknowledge the risk to one's human capital (and lifetime earnings, and medical expenses) when a career could be cut short for various reasons. It's just actuarial-- no urination required.

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The bottom line is that defined benefit pension plans are bankrupting companies and sending some cities to the brink. We just can't afford them like we used to any more -- especially not when someone is 37-38 and probably has 50 years left to collect it between them and their spouse.
So it's the pension plans driving the companies into bankruptcy? Or is it management making unaffordable promises and then retiring or pulling golden ripcords vacating the premises 20-40 years before their bad bargains are realized? Maybe those companies & govts could afford them all along but chose not to. Executive salaries, benefits, & pensions somehow seem to be affordable.

I think it's also appropriate to include recent changes to accounting rules requiring govts & corporations to attempt to assess their pension/healthcare obligations and include them on the balance sheet. No one had to acknowledge these problems even five years ago. If this requirement had existed 25 years ago then the steel & auto industries might have dealt with their problems a lot sooner.

The "affordability" of the military pension system pales to insignificance compared to the projected burden of Medicare, but I don't hear any clarion calls for its overhaul. People are living longer anyway, so why should we give them all this affordable healthcare when they're only in their 60s? If this emotional rhetoric is starting to seem unreasonable then you're beginning to appreciate how veterans feel whenever a committee tells Congress that veterans are overpaid.

Here's another thought to consider. The typical AEGIS cruiser or destroyer being commissioned today will last for over 30 years and require several billions of upkeep & payroll. Yet during those 30 years it may never fire a shot in anger and will probably never destroy several billion$ of other lives or property. Its sunk costs (or its potential value) was not achieved by an equivalent value in goods & services. By that standard it's a waste of money.

Security insurance ain't cheap, but the alternatives are even less acceptable. REDUX gave the 1980s/1990s military a little taste of what happens to retention when governments make the retirement system more "affordable" and veterans started voting with their feet. Pensions are cheap compared to the cost of finding new suckers recruits, training them, and replacing the lost experience. Even paying out higher salaries & bonuses is a lot cheaper than recruiting, and the Navy learned this with a vengeance in the late 1990s. It's no coincidence that the admiral in charge of the Navy's personnel system in the late '90s is now leading a coalition of veteran's organizations.

It doesn't matter what you think is affordable or even "right". It's how much people are willing to sacrifice their lifestyles and maybe even their lives for. Sure, veterans are also compensated with excitement & adventure, but that doesn't make up for the lost income and the lost time.

There's a reason that such a tiny fraction of the veterans stick around for a pension in their late 30s/early 40s-- only 10-15% according to that study linked here recently. Maybe those defined-benefit pensions are more affordable than you're willing to accept for the services & benefits you're receiving. But if you can find a better system then feel free to vote for pay for it...
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Old 03-20-2008, 10:04 AM   #37
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There's a reason that such a tiny fraction of the veterans stick around for a pension in their late 30s/early 40s-- only 10-15% according to that study linked here recently. Maybe those defined-benefit pensions are more affordable than you're willing to accept for the services & benefits you're receiving. But if you can find a better system then feel free to vote for pay for it...
Actually, I can be convinced that the current situation could be in the best interest of national security and an overall stronger military (and even cheaper, perhaps, depending on turnover rates and training costs). I just grow tired of the demagoguery that automatically assumes someone doesn't appreciate the sacrifices of soldiers/cops/firemen if the think we need to look at changing the status quo.
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Old 03-20-2008, 03:33 PM   #38
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I for one would be very cautious about messing around with the retirement benefits of those people who bear the burden of protecting our freedoms. For those of us who have done 20 as some of the 1% who keep the other 99% free reducing the retirement of those who defend this country is very offensive to me..
Oh, relax.

As Nords has already pointed out, the changes "would apply only to new enlistees/officers, not those in the current active-duty or reserve system. It wouldn't apply to gray-area or retirees either".

As far as new people go, there are pluses and minuses to every career, and everyone is free to make up their own minds. I doubt that many service members are motivated primarily by money (I certainly wasn't).

If there turn out to be serious recruitment or retention problems, people will vote with their feet and the pension changes will be adjusted or reversed until the problem is fixed. That's the way economics work (Adam Smith's hidden hand, remember?).
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Old 03-20-2008, 04:13 PM   #39
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Obviously if you became disabled in service or some such, it's another matter.

Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion about this without the emotional rhetoric as if people are looking to pee on the grave of every dead soldier, cop or firefighter who died in the line of duty? This is exactly why some issues can NOT be solved in this country.
You don't have to be disabled to be worn out. Accidents happen during hard training, it is unavoidable. Injuries sustained because of those accidents do not necessarily require the person to be discharged and given a retirement pension or disability, however they do accumulate and take their toll on a person.

The most important provision for the law enforcement and fire fighter retirement is the necessity to maintain good physical fitness. Many agencies do not enforce fitness standards after the initial training. Some do, but not all. The military almost to the last person does. So making the retirement for military worse than that provided to federal law enforcement and fire fighters does not make any sense. Not to mention the personal restrictions imposed on military members when compared to federal law enforcement and fire fighters is substantially greater. By giving the military members a worse retirement, the federal government is essentially saying we don't value your service as much as these other federal employees. This can be observed by the lower pay and worse working conditions seen in the military as compared to the federal civil service and in a very poor military retirement (referring to the one proposed) for people required to maintain higher physical standards. A little hint just about every federal law enforcement position covered by law enforcement retirement starts at least at GS-5 and goes to GS-11 without competition and the supervisors are paid quite a bit more than that.
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Old 04-12-2008, 11:11 AM   #40
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Oooohkay... how 'bout firefighters and police officers?

Yo, Leonidas, you still out there to provide your perspective on this discussion?
I chose my profession, in part, based on the fact that I could retire a lot younger than 62 or whatever. Where I went to work was based more on salary and other considerations, but within the first decade of work, whenever I started thinking of jumping ship, the specifics of the pension kept me where I was.

One of my career assignments was in our recruiting division, and I know how many people line up wanting jobs in police work who are not the kind of folks you want to give guns and badges to. The pool of good applicants is small, and there is a lot of expense in finding, hiring and training them. Once you have them on board and trained, you want to keep them because by the time they are experienced in the job and doing it well, you have invested a lot of taxpayer dollars in them.

I went as far in my career as the ten-year mark frequently checking out other employers and other careers, but eventually the pension hooked me and I stayed put for my most productive years.

My former employer made a decision to change the pension system - which forced a lot of people to vote with their feet. Within a year he was faced with a lot of unhappy taxpayers who were tired of the crime rate and the daily headlines saying "Three murders this weekend!" He tried to go on a hiring binge.

What he discovered was what we already knew. The pension, and eventually salary increases, had been keeping people at work who were going to be very difficult to replace. Not replace as in finding experienced folks, but just warm bodies to fill holes and start gaining experience. There's a war on and the demographics have changed in the last 20 years - there are fewer young people who want demanding, stressful and dangerous jobs who are qualified (or even just acceptable) to do them. Add to that the fact that the a lot of federal agencies went on hiring binges as well. The demand outstrips the supply.

So my former employer held the line on pensions, but he was forced to give further salary increases to incumbents, pay millions in overtime trying to cover for all the vacancies caused by retirement, raise the entry-level salaries, pay $12,000 signing bonuses, pay $2,000 referral bonuses, and spend millions for a huge recruiting drive. And they still can't get half as many people as they want - which was a third of the people they need.

As I recall from what my Econ professor taught, when there are fewer people willing to supply a good or service, and demand remains constant or increases, the place where the supply curve meets the demand curve goes way up along the axis labeled "Cost".

One of our chiefs once made this comment: "Boys, let's don't forget that the oil that the Big Blue Machine runs on is colored green." You can't escape the fact that providing protective services costs - and, at least in police work, the single greatest cost is personnel (96-97% of total budget). Whenever you start looking to whack the budget there are only so many cars, helicopters, computers, etc. that can be cut before everybody starts walking or you start cutting personnel. Given the current situation you are very quickly faced with a situation in which either you lower your standards and start hiring people you know are going to create problems, or you try to do it with fewer folks. Or you face up the the reality that the service provided is important, in fact vital, and the bill has to be paid.

No demagogy, no wizzing on graves, just simple economics.
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