Last week the New York Times called the nation’s military-retirement program “another big social-welfare system.” This is a grossly unjust portrayal of what military retirement represents. It is not a government giveaway. Rather, it is part of a contract America makes with every service member when he or she enlists: If you give this nation 20 years of service, you will be able to retire at half pay at the end of that period.
As America’s two wars wind down and our national debt explodes, it may become necessary to take another look and make some adjustments to this contract. In fact, there are groups, such as the Defense Business Board, already making recommendations that are worthy of serious examination. However, anyone desiring to change the military’s retirement system must begin with the underlying understanding that it is not “social welfare.” Those receiving military retirement have earned it through sacrifices not demanded of any other government or private-sector employee. To see what I mean, it may be instructive to follow the path of a typical enlisted soldier who retired last year after 20 years of service.
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