Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Veteran issues takes centerstage inspite of recession

US Budget Cuts and Veteran's Pensions/ B​enefits- commentry by Lt Gen Harhajan Signh
I saw a 40 minutes TV program in USA about the US Budget cuts and Veteran's Pensions/benefits. In this program Pentagon correspondent of a newspaper was the expert and a number of veterans (mostly below officer rank) from US Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine Corps expressed their views and put up suggestions via telephone calls.
There is a debate going on in USA whether in view of the existing financial problems and likely Defence Budget cuts, so called high expenditure on Veteran's pensions/benefits should be reduced and how.
The following points got high lighted during the program-
1. The existing system is some what different in the four Defence Services.
2. The US Navy and the Air Force have requirement for more technical personnel and it is difficult to replace them. They need to be retained for longer periods and incentives for them to continue longer built in.
3. The System of Pensions in the Army and Marine Corps (probably) is that in case an officer/soldier serves for 20 years, he/she gets 50% of his basic salary at retirement as pension for life. If the service is 30 years or more the percentage of pension vis a vis
basic pay goes up to 75%.
4. For service less than 20 years there is no pension.
5. In addition the veterans get life long medical facilities.
6. All participants high lighted that the existing system has been in vogue for a number of years and it will be very difficult to change it, considering the sentiments of the veterans.
7. THE SERVICE CONDITIONS OF THE MILITARY JUST CANNOT BE COMPARED WITH THOSE IN CIVIL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS OR IN BUSINESS.The harsh and dangerous service conditions of especially those in combat arms; the casualties suffered, injuries sustained and psychological trauma experienced require special consideration.

8. Sufferings and sacrifices made by the families of those in the military need to be very seriously taken note of and considered by those who may sit on judgement as regards pensions/benefits for veterans. Those who have no experience of the military should not be allowed to sit on judgment while examining pensions of military personnel.
9. High rate of divorce, health problems, psychological disorders suffered by those who bear arms must be taken into account and compensated.
10. Those in the front line combat should perhaps get greater consideration as compared to the ones pushing pens and in the rear.
11. In the next 10 years 2 Trillion dollars will be required to pay pensions at present rate.
The country may not be able to bear this financial burden. Measures to reduce this expenditure need to be examined. Otherwise this would eat in to the defence budget.
12. A contributory scheme where the armed forces personnel deposit part of their salary
towards a pension fund and the government puts in matching amount may be one
suggestion to be considered.
13. The 20 years line for pension is meant to attract officers/men to stay on and ensure availability of experienced personnel. May be different yard sticks can be made for technical personnel and others.
14. Some participants made suggestions that even those who served for less than 20 years should get some pension.
This topic will be debated for the next few months in USA and we could follow the discussion.
Best wishes.
Harbhajan Singh
Lt Gen (Retd)
In California

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