Colonel Mike Hayden USAF (Ret.), Director of Government Relations, was among five representatives from veteran and military family advocacy groups testifying at a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.
The Subcommittee heard testimony on the 15 recommendations put forth by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) regarding military pay and benefits.
On the 15 MCRMC recommendations, Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) said, “…three are a real heavy lift: the retirement, the health care, and the commissary exchange issues.” He said the remaining twelve “make reasonable sense.”
Hayden’s testimony focused primarily on the two areas MOAA recommended for further study: the retirement and health care proposals.
Hayden noted that both of those recommendations “produce a negative effect on the pocketbook of those whom the government needs to serve for a career of 20 years or greater.”
The representatives at the table, some being members of The Military Coalition, had differing opinions on the MCRMC proposals. The obvious dissension was noted by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), “It seems to me now we’ve pitted 20-year career folks against others and that was never anyone’s thought.”
So, What Can We All Agree On?
On healthcare, I think we can all agree that access to high quality healthcare in a timely manner is a must and military medical readiness cannot be compromised. Disproportionate costs should not be shifted on to the backs of beneficiaries.
On retirement, I think we can all acknowledge the “fairness factor.” Some type of portable career device is needed for those that serve a minimum number of years, but will not stay for a full career. There must also be a retirement plan that entices servicemembers to serve 20 or more years.
On proposal to consolidate the commissary and exchange, can two vastly different business models be merged? More importantly, if the proposal failed would it be “the death of a benefit that’s very important to a lot of military families?” as one witness noted. We should be very skeptical of proposals that potentially change the delivery of the benefit and the level of savings realized by beneficiaries.
In the weeks and months ahead, Congress will continue to evaluate all 15 of the MCRMC’s recommendations. Chairman Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) stated, “We must not break faith with our service members and undermine our efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest into our armed forces.”
That is the one thing we can all agree on!