President Obama gave almost immediate approval to the budget deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), even as top Democrats expressed skepticism. In doing so, Obama breaks a promise he made to veterans and military personnel just a few months ago.
President Obama wants to consider sweeping changes to the military’s retirement and compensation system, but he also said that all current troops should be grandfathered under the current retirement plan if they choose.
From Obama’s “principles”:
The Commission’s recommendations for change must grandfather any currently serving members and current retirees in the current military retirement systems, but may allow current service members and current retirees the choice to change to your proposed retirement system (emphasis added)
The “Commission” is the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission, created by Congress to make recommendations on overhauling the military’s compensation and benefit systems. The Army Times noted that Obama’s requirement that any change would grandfather current personnel and retirees reassured troops who worried that the system would change before they reached retirement age.
It was a promise Obama made to members of the military anxious about the future. It is also a promise he broke when he endorsed the Ryan-Murray budget deal. As is often the case with Obama, “principles” are just temporary suggestions for how to proceed.
One of the spending cuts in the budget deal lowers the pension benefits of future and current veterans. The deal lowers the cost-of-living adjustments that are part of the military’s current pension system. Under the deal, future COLA adjustments would equal inflation minus 1%. The deal, and pension cuts, don’t grandfather current active-duty service members or veterans.
The $7 billion saved over the next decade would cover a portion of the increased federal spending in the deal.
The Ryan-Murray deal also made some changes to the pension system for federal employees. Future federal employees will be required to contribute a higher portion of their pay to their pension. Of course, this only applies to new employees. Existing federal employees are grandfathered and face no changes.
Only the military pension changes would apply to existing personnel.
The federal employees have a union to protect their interests. Member of the military, however, have only their faith in the government to keep its word protecting them.