A lot of my civilian friends believe that now I’m retired, I no longer worry about the welfare of my troops. Nothing could be further from the truth — as I like to tell them, “I’m retired, not dead.”
Quite frankly, I’m not even sure I’d stop caring about my brothers and sisters in arms even if I WAS dead. After all, I started off my career as a Marine, and a good Marine never dies — we just go to a really hot place to regroup.
Mentoring troops and ensuring they have the tools, training and benefits necessary to concentrate on fighting and winning the nation’s wars does not stop. Now I have my First Amendment right to go after politically sensitive subjects I couldn’t before.
That’s the reason why I’ve been looking closely at the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act — the annual bill that grants the fiscal year budget — with stipulation, of course.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice I’ve been dead-set against Congress requiring our active-duty servicemembers to start forking money out of pocket for their and their family members’ health care. We were promised if we put our lives on the line, we wouldn’t have to worry about that.
I seriously wonder what Congress plans on doing for those young troops unable to afford losing the extra money. If that soldier is in a combat zone and gets wounded, are they going to turn around and say, “Oops, sorry — you didn’t pay for your Tricare Prime. You’ll have to pay full price for the care needed to save you. Will that $450,000 be on allotment?”
And while the House Armed Services Committee actually backed a 2.1 percent pay increase for 2017, the Senate version wants to uphold the administration’s 1.6 percent raise. The military has not seen a raise over 2 percent in the last six years.
Did you transfer your Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to your children in the hopes of paying off their college? Did you expect them to get the full E5 (sergeant) basic allowance for housing rate while they attended, the way you would have? Not anymore. Congress would prefer they only get 50 percent of that rate, instead.
I can only thank God my son will have finished using the benefit I transferred to him before that goes into effect. That extra money while he was going to college came in very handy — especially since my grandson is still under 2 years old.
And there is so much more the government is trying to take away from those who actually earn the benefits.
Let me know how I’m doing bringing these issues to light, and feel free to contact me if there is something else you see I need to dig into.
I don’t think Congress will pull me out of retirement for holding them accountable. It would cost too much.