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 MurraySenators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senate Democrats call on White House to abandon plan to collect DNA from migrants MORE (D-Wash.) and Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonVeterans face growing threat from online disinformation Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump 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 BrownOn The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Warren, Brown press IRS on study reviewing Free File program Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates MORE (D-Ohio), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellMicrosoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Senators introduce cybersecurity workforce expansion bill Boeing chief faces anger over 737 crashes at hearing MORE (D-Wash), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' MORE (R-Ga.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-Maine), Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDemocrats must question possible political surveillance Wisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint 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 JohnsonTrump faces tough path to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac overhaul Several hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation MORE (D-S.D.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar New poll shows four top-tier 2020 candidates in Iowa New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Election 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy MORE (D-Minn.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program MORE (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts MORE (D-Mo.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (D-Ark.), Bernard Sanders (D-Vt.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Overnight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring 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.