Cut to Military Pension Cost of Living Angers Some Veterans

Photo credit: PBS.org

Photo credit: PBS.org

Some younger veterans are viewing the budget deal that reduces the military pension cost-of-living adjustments as a betrayal according to the Washington Post.

The reduction in cost-of-living does not take effect until 2015, a year from now. However, reaction to the modest cut has been immediate.

After 25 years of service, including a combat tour in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Stephen Preston retired from the Army and began collecting a pension of nearly $55,000 a year. The money made it possible for Preston to go back to college, get his MBA and embark on a second career in corporate strategy.

…“I’m not an angry man, but I was very, very angry,” Preston, 51, said in a telephone interview from his home in Tampa. “This is a pact between the greater population of the United States and the fraction of people who served and sacrificed. If you didn’t want to pay us what you promised us, then you probably shouldn’t have promised it.”

Among the veterans organizations calling for a repeal of the pension cut is Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, IAVA.

“My family and I should not be penalized to subsidize the budget,” wrote Air Force Master Sergeant Brandon Bennett in a letter posted on the IAVA website.

The Post reports that Congress will consider restoring the 1 percent cut in the cost-of-living adjustment received by disabled veterans and families of those killed in action.

A special commission is expected to finalize its recommendations on a complete overhaul of the military pension system this May.

You can read the full Washington Post article here.

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Marine Gen. John Allen to Retire, Turns Down European Post

Gen. John Allen, ISAF Commander. Photo courtesy of the DoD.

Gen. John Allen, former ISAF Commander. Photo courtesy of the DoD.

Citing his wife’s poor health, Marine Gen. John R. Allen asked President Obama to remove him from consideration for supreme allied commander in Europe according to the Washington Post. He plans to retire.

In a statement, Obama said he had granted Allen’s request. “I told General Allen that he has my deep, personal appreciation for his extraordinary service over the last 19 months in Afghanistan, as well as his decades of service in the United States Marine Corps,” the president said.

Allen was the longest-serving leader of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and directed the shift from counterinsurgency operations to training Afghan and local forces. During his command forces were reduced by some 33,000 U.S. troops.

The four star general told the Post that his decision to retire had nothing to do with the investigation into his email correspondence with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. However, Allen said that investigation did take a toll on his wife.

Washington Post: Military Benefits for Same Sex Spouses

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

As Secretary Leon Panetta prepares to leave the Department of Defense, the Washington Post is reporting that he plans one more major change in policy.

The Pentagon has decided to extend certain benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian personnel, according to officials and people notified about the decision, responding to the increasingly vocal appeals of same-sex couples in the military.

The military expects to announce the decision this week.

The new benefits were not identified by Pentagon officials, but the selection is limited by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions. According to the Post story, the law prohibits effects more than 100 benefits.
Under Secretary Panetta’s term, the Pentagon has taken on two other major changes: ending the ban on openly gay military service members and expanding the role of women allowing them to serve in combat units.

Five Myths About Women in Combat by a Marine Major

Maj. Jane Blair Photo credit JaneBlair.com

Maj. Jane Blair Photo credit JaneBlair.com

The old myths started swirling as soon as word got out that women would be allowed to serve in combat roles. You’ve heard the fears – the questions:

  • “I just hope they don’t lower the standards to let women in.”
  • “Will women HAVE TO serve in combat?”

“The answers are no and no.

But, those fears and comments will only come faster and with more fervor as the Pentagon makes it formal announcement today, Jan. 24, 2013.

So, I want to share an opinion piece published in 2011 in the Washington Post, Five Myths About Women in Combat. I found it enlightening.

It’s written by Maj. Jane Blair, a Marine Corps reservist, the author of “Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq.”

Blair takes on the top assumptions on why women should not serve in combat in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post:

1. Women are too emotionally fragile for combat.

This myth is based on cultural stereotypes and Hollywood hype. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that women are any more susceptible to combat stress than their male counterparts…

2. Women are too physically weak for the battlefield.

While it is indisputable that the average man has more upper-body strength than the average woman, women have different physical abilities that enable them to offer unique capabilities in combat…

3. The presence of women causes sexual tension in training and battle.

 This notion insults men as much as women. For nearly 10 years, the U.S. military has been fighting two wars with a majority of units that include both men and women. Why hasn’t supposed “sexual tension” undermined the stellar performance of gender-integrated units? …

4. Male troops will become distracted from their missions in order to protect female comrades.

This myth conjures an image of a heroic soldier, attacking the enemy and about to win, until catastrophe strikes: He spots a wounded woman on the battlefield and abandons his assault to save her life, costing his side the battle. It’s the “women and children first” argument translated to the battlefield…

5. Women can’t lead men in combat effectively.

Why not? Across the planet, women have proven their worth as leaders as diplomats, heads of state and corporate titans. This is no less true in the military and in combat. In history as well as ancient mythology, women have often emerged as heroic leaders of men and women in battle, with Joan of Arc and the Assyrian queen Semiramisjust two of the most notable examples. In the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been countless women who, often unrecognized, have served as leaders of military men and women…

You can read the full opinion piece by  Marine Maj. Jane Blair here.

Author Maj. Jane Blair in Iraq. Photo credit JaneBlair.com

Author Maj. Jane Blair in Iraq. Photo credit JaneBlair.com

Emailer Who Exposed Petraeus Affair Calls for Privacy Laws

Credit Amy Scherzer / Tampa Bay Times. Gen. David Petraeus, left, Scott and Jill Kelley and Holly Petraeus watch the 2010 Gasparilla parade from the Kelleys’ front lawn.

Credit Amy Scherzer / Tampa Bay Times. Gen. David Petraeus, left, Scott and Jill Kelley and Holly Petraeus watch the 2010 Gasparilla parade from the Kelleys’ front lawn.

The Tampa socialite, who exposed the affair of CIA Director David Petraeus forcing him to resign, is calling upon Congress to restrict access to private email accounts.

Jill Kelley and her husband, Dr. Scott Kelley, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post calling for Congress to safeguard privacy as they consider Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The Kelley’s wrote in their op-ed:

Our family committed no crime and sought no publicity. We simply appealed for help after receiving anonymous e-mails with threats of blackmail and extortion … Unfortunately, reaching out to an FBI agent whose acquaintance we had made resulted in slanderous allegations.

Jill Kelley initially asked the government for help when she received threatening anonymous emails. The FBI investigated. It found the anonymous emails came from Petraeus’ official biographer, Paula Broadwell.

But, the FBI did not stop there. They examined Kelley’s correspondence with Marine Gen. John Allen, currently the top commander in Afghanistan. The emails were reported to number in the thousands, but those numbers have since been refuted.

No criminal wrongdoing was found, but the FBI handed over its investigation of Allen to the Department of Defense Inspector General.

On Tuesday, the IG cleared Gen. Allen of any inappropriate conduct or emails. However, his promotion to commander of NATO forces and the European Command was put on hold and there’s no word if his nomination hearings will be rescheduled.

Washington Post: Defense Nominee a Former Vietnam Vet

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel served in the senate from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska. Photo credit: Congress.com

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel served in the senate from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska. Photo credit: Congress.com

Former Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel will be nominated by Pres. Obama to takeover at the Pentagon according to the Washington Post.

Nomination of the former Republican senator from Nebraska for Defense Secretary is expected as early as Monday or Tuesday of this week.

Despite Hagel’s GOP credentials, the Washington Post reports his nomination may get bumpy. At least one Republican senator already has raised objections:

In an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Hagel’s selection “an in-your-face nomination.”

Comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were not as harsh. You can read the entire article here.

Homeless Veterans: VA Secretary Calls for Urgency

Photo courtesy of the VA Homeless Veterans website.

The battle to end homelessness among veterans is just beginning according to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. The Washington Post covered the VA secretary’s speech Wednesday at the 2012 Annual Conference of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

“Our homeless veterans are counting on us to bring a sense of urgency to this fight — and I do mean fight,” Shinseki said. “The hill gets steeper and the air gets thinner the closer you get to the summit. VA will continue to fight just as hard for our budgets as we have in the past. But at this point, more is not better: Better is better.”

The number of homeless veterans decreased the during point-in-time count from 2010 to 2011. The head of HUD attributes that to its  “housing first” strategy.

Additionally, the VA announced its partnership with the “100,000 Homes” Campaign that is present in more than 130 communities. The goal of the collaboration will be to find permanent housing for 10,000 homeless Veterans this year.

“President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among Veterans,”  Secretary Shinseki is quoted in a press release.  “Those who have served this Nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.”

The collaboration will support the ongoing work of  “Opening Doors,” the federal plan to end chronic and Veteran homelessness.

Volunteers in participating “100,000 Homes” communities will help the VA identify homeless Veterans through their registry week process. Staff will also offer quality improvement training designed to help reduce the amount of time necessary to house a homeless Veteran to 90 days or less.

Pilot training in Los Angeles and New York City has already helped shave an average of 64 days from the Veteran housing process in these communities according to the press release.

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