18 November 2010

'Veterans Paid the Price, Cut Debt Elsewhere,' Says The American Legion

/PRNewswire/ -- "There they go again," said The American Legion's National Commander Jimmie Foster about the recommendations of two debt reduction commissions which would decrease military retirement benefits. "Every time Washington wakes up with a deficit hangover after decades of spending binges, those who study the serious problems of our national debt can't resist the easy but unfair route of trying to balance the budget on the backs of veterans. It is unfair and if these ridiculous proposals are passed into law, it will hurt America's ability to defend itself from our enemies."

One panel, chaired by former Sen. Pete Domenici and Clinton administration Budget Director Alice Rivlin, calls for changing the formula to calculate military retirement pay and delaying payments until the eligible veterans reach age 57. Another panel, chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson and retired Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, recommends that military retirement checks be delayed until age 60.

"Tell it to the Marines!" was Foster response to the proposals. "I want these commissions to look a 22-year-old Marine in the eye and say that if you retire at age 40, after 20 years of service and three, four or even more tours of being shot at in Afghanistan, that you still have not done enough to receive your retirement. I want these commissions to tell the soldiers in Iraq that the benefits they are receiving are too much. America has a huge debt all right. And it is owed to these men and women who protect our freedoms every day. It is a debt that must be repaid."

The panels have also recommended cuts to military weapons systems that could hurt American efforts to fight the Global War on Terrorism.

The Simpson/Bowles Commission suggested slashing $100 billion from the defense budget in 2015, closing one-third of the U.S. bases overseas and freezing noncombat military pay. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that cutting even 10 percent or $55 billion from his budget would be "catastrophic" for the military.

"Cutting the military's budget while it is engaged in two wars is unconscionable," said Foster. "When you send American troops to war, you must pay the cost of those wars. Freezing pay and cutting benefits, whether in combat or in garrison, will also make young people think twice before volunteering to serve their country. The United States would not exist if not for the sacrifices of the men and women who have served in our military throughout our history. It is only because of their sacrifice, that beancounters have the freedom to argue about how to balance the budget to begin with."

With a current membership of 2.4-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

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