Transitionnews: Military/Veteran Jobs and Benefits news of the day for for 3/26/14

Good news story of the day

Purple Heart Recipient is Honored by Veterans  (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University News)  A small crowd gathered in the DLC to honor a student veteran of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who is a Purple Heart recipient.

Military Transition and Jobs News

Wednesday is last chance to apply for early retirement  (Air Force Times)  The window for most airmen to apply for early retirement closes on Wednesday.

Transition GPS curriculum expands, implemented throughout DOD  (Marines.mil)  The Department of Defense is making sure its service members are more ready than ever to transition from military to civilian life with a revamped version of its current transition program, the Transition Readiness Seminar.

Job fair targets transitioning military  (Jacksonville Daily News)  On Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Goettge Memorial Field House, military affiliated personnel as well as students from Coastal Carolina Community College will have an opportunity to market themselves to potential employers as they present their unique skills and qualities to more than 70 employers,

Veteran-Owned Wall Street Firm Employs Disabled Vets  (ABC News)  When Lawrence Doll returned to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1969 he never forgot the help he received during his transition into civilian life.

Job Fair Helps Veterans Find Work  (NBC Connecticut)  Even after five deployments overseas, Sgt. Woodrow Valle is still a member of the U.S. Army, but he was making contacts at the Heroes 4 Hire job fair for the day he gets out, shaking hands and handing out resumes.

Job fair connects veterans with employers  (WEAU)  They’ve served our country and now, they’re looking for jobs.

Owen School is popular transitional stop for veterans  (Vanderbilt News)  Military veterans and current soldiers alike are a familiar sight in the halls of Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Veterans News

New Jersey Has Highest Percentage of Unemployed Veterans in America  (Breitbart)  New Jersey’s veterans are having a harder time finding a job than veterans in any other state, according to an extensive survey of veteran employment rates nationwide by the United States Department of Labor.

Veterans’ Unemployment Edges Down but Remains High  (Military.com) The unemployment rate for veterans who served since 2001 dipped slightly in 2013 to 9 percent, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Relatives of Pearl Harbor victims want military to identify remains  (Los Angeles Times)  Bethany Glenn never met her grandfather, John C. England, a 20-year-old Navy ensign from Alhambra who perished in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Casey says VA insults families, taxpayers by not releasing probe results  (TribLive)  U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. contends it’s “an insult” that the Department of Veterans Affairs has not released the results of two internal probes into a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Pittsburgh VA hospitals.

Legislative report on vets housing makes startlingly bold suggestions  (The Star Tribune)  A little-seen legislative report on veterans housing makes some startlingly bold suggestions.

Benefits News

Veteran’s job bill passes Senate  (Legislative Gazette)  After nearly a decade-long fight, Sen. Greg Ball announced the passage of legislation through the Senate that would facilitate the awarding of state contracts to disabled veterans.

Military retirement: Change ahead?  (Union-Tribune)  A retired Marine Corps officer said he thinks young enlisted fighters deserve something even if they don’t stay for 20 years.

Half of GI Bill Veterans Completed Educational Program  (AllGov)  Military veterans are making good use of the GI Bill of 2008 and its support for those seeking college education, a new report says.

VA: Adaptive housing grant eligibility automatic for ALS  (Today in OT)  Veterans and active-duty military personnel with service-connected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, now are presumed medically eligible for grants of up to almost $68,000 to adapt their homes, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced March 19.

Some vets won’t have to report income for VA care  (Military Times)  Starting this month, veterans who qualify for care from the Veterans Health Administration under income thresholds will no longer need to report their income information to Veterans Affairs annually.

Bill would remove cap on traumatic injury payments  (Air Force Times)  Two lawmakers have introduced a bill that would eliminate the $100,000 cap on payments to wounded warriors for multiple, severe injuries under the Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance program.

House lawmakers cool to DoD pay, benefits proposals  (Military Times)  The Pentagon’s pay and benefits proposals for fiscal 2015 would be crippling for troops and their families, and potentially a disincentive for many to continue serving, according to House lawmakers who oversee personnel programs in the annual defense budget.

If you would like to receive Transitionnews daily via email, just enter your preferred email address in the “Email Subscription” box on the sidebar.

Have a great day!

 

Best post ever about the military benefits debate

Every once in a while somebody writes a blog post that squarely and utterly nails a discussion.  Amy Bushatz, the managing editor of Military.com’s family blog titled SpouseBuzz, just wrote one of those posts.  She ardently and cogently eviscerates those who feel that military folks are overcompensated whiners when it comes to their pay and benefits.  I could not have possibly said or written it any better! Her great piece is reposted below, and if you would like to see the original, go here.

An Open Letter to Military Benefits Haters

Dear Military Benefits Haters  –

We’ve been having a rough go of it lately, haven’t we?  There you are, a civilian, absolutely convinced that the average servicemember is not worth his weight in pay and benefits.  And here I am, a military family member wondering how we got to this point – and why you are so misdirected about the value of the military.

I think the problem may be that you are confused. You’re there, sitting on your civilian sofa in your civilian house in the town of your choice after coming home from your civilian 9-5 job. You are feeling a little annoyed by the crazy awesome salaries that servicemembers and military retirees score because, in comparison, yours aren’t that amazing. And hey! Your taxes are paying for us to have this fabulous stuff! You are incensed by the very existence of commissaries which, you gleefully note in news articles like this one,  is supported by tax payers all so that military folks can have access to “15 types of ketchup” at Lejeune. You think they should close.

And over here, you proclaim our benefits – the things we get in exchange for the willingness to die for America – as lavish.

It isn’t so much the idea of shutting the commissaries that bothers me. While they do seem like a vital part of life overseas, stateside the argument that they are superfluous at most bases doesn’t seem that farfetched. In most cases, as the author of this peachy story notes, there really are other options. Same thing goes for fitness centers and recreation on bases around the country.

Don’t get me wrong – I love that stuff and I use it all regularly. But I could live without it just fine. If it comes down to bullets or bagels, I’d go with the bullets any day.

What bothers me about these and other stories and columns like them is your tone.

Servicemembers, retirees and their families, the tone says, are acting like privileged brats for expecting, accepting and clinging to the benefits which encourage them to stay military or even to join in the first place.

In fact, the tone says, it is a waste of tax payer money to meet military personnel needs or even give nice-to-haves in exchange for keeping them around.

Servicemembers are overpaid, coddled low-skill workers who should not be given compensation for the inconveniences of military life, but who should still be expected to do their jobs anyway.

It’s a tone that says if you had to join the military to make it through life you are, logically, a substandard American worker and you do not warrant compensation in excess or even equal to the civilian market. Civilians are people who have choices and didn’t take the easy out of Uncle Sam. Military are people who are living off the tax payer.

The tone is supported by the flinging of inaccurate statistics to support your claims or, worse, the promotion sof weeping generalities about who servicemembers are and what they deserve.

Bad Statistics and Comparisons

Here’s this gem from the Post’s story:

“Over the past decade, military salaries have grown at a faster rate than those of civilian workers. The average enlisted soldier now earns more than 90 percent of Americans who have less than two years of college. Most Army captains – the third-most-junior rank of officer – will take home more than $90,000 this year.”

I’m going to disregard that ridiculous first sentence that ignores the fact that we also, over the past decade, have been paid for deployment after deployment and all the tolls of war. Let’s just focus on the compensation “facts.”

Only one in five Americans is even in good enough physical shape to join the Army. That means that to be the “average enlisted soldier” the author talks about, a recruit already had to do something most Americans can’t – be fit. A whole other group of Americans is ineligible because they didn’t graduate high school or because they have a criminal record. He also had to be willing to join the military at all, which puts him in a group with less than one percent of Americans.

After he joins that soldier then holds a more than full time job, often over 80 hours a week, for which he must continue to meet requirements such as staying fit and felony free. He very likely does an intricate task that no average American with less than two years of college could do without months of dedication and training. He probably has also spent more than nine full months multiple times away from his family working around the clock where he put his life on the line and accepted the continuing burdens of war as part of the gig. He’s likely to have held this same job for around five or six years.

Why is it unreasonable that this soldier make more than 90 percent of Americans who have less than two years of college? And how is that a good group of people to compare him to at all?

And then there is his statement about Army captains and what I can only assume must be a gross misuse of the term “take home,” which is generally accepted to mean “income after taxes.”

Army officers – or any officers, for that matter – are compensated at a higher rate based on education and responsibility, at least in theory. While a captain may make “more than $90,000” before taxes in a very high housing allowance area such as D.C., the average captain certainly does not. A little math reveals that a captain with seven years of Army experience living in San Antonio, Texas with dependents, for example, makes about $86,000 before taxes. But a breakdown of average hours worked by our case study during a year in which he does not deploy shows that he earns around $25 an hour.

And no matter how you shake it out, none of these examples are “more than $90,000″ after taxes.

 In 2010 the average male graduate just out of college earned about $22 an hour. After graduating college and spending seven years on the job with countless additional months in training, an Army captain is making about $25 an hour for putting his life on the line, being willing to live wherever the Army sends him and leave his family for months at a time. He also has met all the qualifications of the “average enlisted soldier” that made that person valuable including, again, an interest in joining to start with.

Are high personnel costs really a problem?

As America rolled into sequestration and other budget cuts, DoD leaders decried the high cost of personnel. After all, they said, supporting current and former military members takes up a third of the DoD 2013 budget.  And with the DoD budget as a whole taking up the biggest “single slice of the federal budget at Social Security,” something surely must be done.

But what they fail to note is that personnel costs really aren’t that ridiculous when compared to the normal market. As the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) points out, in civilian companies with big air fleets (the closest they could get to a military comparison), personnel costs hover at similar levels.

For the United Parcel Service, for example, personnel costs make up 61 percent of the budget. For FedEx, it’s 43 percent. For Southwest Airlines – generally recognized as among the most cost-efficient air carriers – personnel costs comprise 31 percent of operating revenue (which includes profit, so the percentage of expenditures is higher).

The idea that the Defense Budget is so out of control is also misleading, particularly when you look to past trends. This MOAA graph shows that it hovers below 20 percent – whereas in 1962 it was closer to 50 percent.

If it’s so great, where are you?

But here’s the thing that really gets me.

If the pay and benefits for members of the American military are so lavish and such a steal of a deal, where are you, Benefits Hater?

Because that’s the thing that’s so great about the American military. You don’t have to be special or an elitist to hang out with us. You don’t even have to be an American citizen. You just have to meet the requirements and be willing to run while wearing boots.

This isn’t some exclusive club. We like all types of people. We’re cool like that.

So perhaps you don’t join because you can’t meet the qualifications that us low-skill, not worthy of benefits folks met.

Or maybe you just love your freedoms and hate danger. Maybe you like picking where you live. Maybe your spouse has a career she doesn’t want to destroy by moving every three years. Maybe you don’t want to risk getting blown up in the street while driving through a far away land.

Those freedoms? We gave you those and make sure you keep them.

Try remembering that and then see how you feel about military benefits.

Sincerely,

Amy
Amen.

The sound of promises breaking

It’s funny, ironic, disingenuous, and sad that the clamor of support for the men and women who answered the nation’s call to arms has changed to a clamor for the evisceration of the benefits that were promised to them for risking their lives to protect those unwilling to serve.

Even though the bullets are still flying and Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the elected and appointed leaders of our nation are shamelessly backing away from the commitments they made to those in uniform.

It started with “pension reform”, which is a blatant and arrogant rewriting of history in order to shave a few billion dollars off of the promised pension benefit that those who devoted twenty or more years of their lives to the nation earned.  When I enlisted I was promised that if I served a career in the military, I would receive a pension that included a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that was based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), not the CPI minus one percent.

I served a total of 27 years under that assumption.  Unfortunately, Senators Ryan and Murray (neither of whom has served a single day in uniform or watched their friends go home in a body bag) decided that my assumption was incorrect and that the promise my recruiter made in 1984 was a lie.

Awesome.

Then came the retraction in TRICARE Prime service area availability.  It turns out that if you retired from the military and took advantage of TRICARE Prime, you were entitled to utilize the program wherever you decided to plant your flag.  As of last October, however, 171,000 retirees found that the promise was subject to the expedient whims of the people who promised such coverage.  That is in addition to the intractable whining by those who have not earned the benefit of subsidized TRICARE Prime premiums and are eager to make sure that veteran retirees pay “a fair amount” for their health care.

Awesome.

Then came the news that the pentagon is working to eviscerate the commissary system.  Sure, I am now retired and can shop at the local supermarket, but since I live by a military base I don’t.  I shop at the commissary because it is a benefit that I earned through my service in a couple of wars and a few decades of peacetime service. Again, my recruiter is a liar because he promised me something that the DOD has decided I probably don’t need.

Awesome.

I say thank you to everyone who wants to cut the benefits that military men and women have earned in the service of the nation.  You have confirmed that you lack the moral courage to actually pick up a rifle and use it on the enemies of the United States, but you have the shameful mendacity to plunge a knife in the backs of those who have.