Senators press Army secretary on retirement benefits

A bipartisan group of senators is urging the Army to immediately reverse a policy that would force some officers to lose as much as $1,000 per month in retirement benefits.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Biden health nominee faces first Senate test MORE (D-Wash.) and Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler leaves door open to 2022 rematch against Warnock Perdue on potential 2022 run: GOP must regain the Senate Bottom line MORE (R-Ga.), along with 13 other senators, urged Army Secretary John McHugh in a letter this week to reverse a policy where officers being asked to retire would do so at their highest enlisted rank if they spent fewer than eight years as an officer. 


Murray and Isakson say the policy is unfair to those who have been selected for retirement under budget cuts, but are just short of the eight years. 

The senators say this would affect a "significant number of captains and majors who are former non-commissioned officers."

This year, the Army required 19,000 captain and majors to go through early separation boards. Of those, the Army is scheduled to involuntarily cut 1,188 captain and 550 majors, according to the News Tribune.

The Army reached a post-9/11 peak of 570,000 troops in 2010, and is scheduled to go down to as few as 420,000 under defense budget cuts by 2019. 

Murray and Isakson wrote that many of the soldiers who will be affected had answered the Army's call for more officers as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ramped up. 

"Many are being retired at enlisted ranks they have not held in years. This is particularly disturbing because had they ignored the Army’s call for officers most would have been promoted at least once more and been eligible to retire at a higher enlisted rank," they said. 

“To demote these soldiers in retirement is an injustice that devalues their service and will materially disadvantage them and their families for the rest of their lives," they added. 

The letter was also signed by Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken launches Senate bid MORE (D-Ohio), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellRegulators keep close eye on Facebook's deal with Australia Video stirs emotions on Trump trial's first day Airlines warn of new furloughs without more federal aid MORE (D-Wash), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLive coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia Ex-GOP senator from Georgia suffers mild stroke: report MORE (R-Ga.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Maine), Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers A pandemic election should move America to address caregivers' struggles The Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring MORE (D-Iowa), Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (R-Neb.), Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonCornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Trump faces tough path to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac overhaul Several hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan MORE (D-S.D.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharOpen-ended antitrust is an innovation killer FBI, DHS and Pentagon officials to testify on Capitol riot Five big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings MORE (D-Minn.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him MORE (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Memo: Punish Trump or risk a repeat, warn Democrats GOP senators criticized for appearing to pay half-hearted attention to trial Hawley watches trial from visitor's gallery MORE (D-Mo.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorEverybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas Live updates: Democrats fight to take control of the Senate MORE (D-Ark.), Bernard Sanders (D-Vt.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenators press Treasury to prioritize Tubman redesign Can Palestine matter again? Senate signals broad support for more targeted coronavirus relief checks MORE (D-N.H.). 

"We strongly urge you to take the necessary steps to rectify this situation in order to allow these soldiers to retire at the rank they have earned and appropriately honor their service to our nation,” Murray and Isakson wrote. 

Defense officials have been urging members of Congress to reverse or relieve the defense cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which doubled planned defense cuts of $500 billion over 10 years. 

The cuts were proposed by the White House as way to force lawmakers to agree on tax and spending reform to, but they failed and the cuts kicked in last year. 

However, Defense officials also say military benefits have become too expensive, and exceed those for civilian workers, and need to come down either way. 

Lawmakers have so far been unable to overturn the cuts, with members of both parties opposing lifting the cuts, replacing them with cuts elsewhere, or lifting cuts on other domestic spending too. 

The issue of military benefits is highly contentious, and has been holding up the Armed Services Committees' finalization of a 2015 defense bill. House lawmakers oppose an increase of military insurance co-pays and a reduction housing allowances, but senators favor them. 

Lawmakers expect to tackle the issue when a commission on military benefits finishes recommendations in February, and when the Pentagon submits its 2016 budget request in March.