Advocates spar over plans for retirement overhaul

Advocates spar over plans for retirement overhaul

Outside advocates on Wednesday offered Congress conflicting views on a proposed military retirement overhaul, leaving lawmakers with an even more muddled picture on how to move ahead on the idea.

Supporters of a 401(k)-style savings plan recommended by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee that moves to change the 20-year-or-nothing retirement system are long overdue, and should happen sooner rather than later.

“We have to change from this rigged system where there is an 83-percent chance they’ll receive nothing for their service,” said Brendon Gehrke, senior legislative associate for Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Opponents are arguing for more patience and study, worried that dramatic changes will hurt retention of talented troops or possibly jeopardize their future financial stability.

“The system now is extremely predictable,” said Michael Hayden, director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America. “You can see exactly what your retirement paycheck is going to be. With this proposal, your payouts depend on many different variables.

“Yes, it will be a more transportable [benefit], but you have to ask whether that will encourage more people to leave or stay.”

The compensation commission — charged two years ago with looking at the military’s long-term pay and benefits needs — has proposed dramatic changes for future enlistees, including government contributions to an investment account matching up to 5 percent of troops’ base pay.

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