Center for American Progress

RELEASE: The Time Is Now to Fix the Way We Pay and Care for Active and Retired Military Service Members and Veterans
Press Release

RELEASE: The Time Is Now to Fix the Way We Pay and Care for Active and Retired Military Service Members and Veterans

Washington, D.C. — The current military compensation system is an outdated, rigid, and costly behemoth that is woefully inadequate to meet the current needs of armed forces personnel or those of the future force, according to a Center for American Progress analysis released today. The compensation system—the main pillars of which are basic pay, health care, and retirement benefits—was designed in the post-World War II era and remains largely the same as it was nearly 70 years ago. Lawmakers have begun to look at improvements, but a great deal is still required for the system to meet the needs of a 21st century military.

The column and infographics released today, in conjunction with a panel discussion featuring military personnel experts, calls for reforms to the military compensation system to make it one that better suits the needs of today’s all-volunteer military.

“When you look at the numbers, the military compensation system does not serve our fighting men and women well at all,” said Katherine Blakeley, author of the column. “Base pay levels greatly advantage officers over enlisted members; the retirement system only works only for the small percentage of the force that reaches 20 years of service, with no benefits at all for the rest of our servicemen and women; and the health care system is consistently rated significantly worse than comparable civilian programs. The House Armed Services Committee is beginning to look at improvements, but a serious rethinking of the way we pay and care for members of our fighting force from the day they enlist through their retirement is long overdue.”

According to the column, officers make nearly twice as much in base pay as enlisted service members do. This made sense when the military consisted of volunteer officers and conscripted enlisted members. However, with the all-volunteer military that exists today, such a stark discrepancy is unnecessary and often contributes to well-qualified and well-trained enlisted members separating from the military after only a few years.

The retirement system is even more lopsided, with service members who reach 20 years of service immediately receiving full benefits and those who fail to reach the 20-year milestone receiving no retirement benefits at all. This means that while the retirement system costs the government more than $100 billion per year, roughly 83 percent of service members exit the service without retirement benefits of any kind.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s health care system, known as TRICARE, covers military members and their families through their tenure and retirement. However, the quality of the health care plans and services are both rated well below comparable civilian health plans and facilities. Several recent issues have arisen to expose systemic problems across facilities, including serious medical errors.

Click here to read the column.

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.