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Letters to the editor

Mar. 19, 2013 - 11:17AM   |  
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Outrageous tuition cuts

I’m outraged, and you should be, too. The Marines, quickly followed by the Army, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, have used the steep budget cuts required by the sequester as a poor excuse to cut one of the most prized and important benefits earned in exchange for service in uniform — tuition assistance. I imagine the Navy will fall in line next.

Cutting tuition assistance directly affects service members’ education — what military leaders cite and have used repeatedly for a generation as one of the most important benefits in recruiting, readiness, promotion, retention and, ultimately, transition to the civilian job market. Surely there are other military expenditures that should be cut first.

Tuition assistance is a benefit promised by recruiters. Now that the troops are coming home after 12 years of war and multiple deployments and are in a position to take advantage of this promised benefit, it is taken away from them.

In the words of former Virginia Sen. James Webb, “You can’t renegotiate the front end once the back end is done.” The troops have lived up to their end of the deal. The services must now live up to their end.

We will not let them get away with this without a fight. You should be saying not only no but, “Hell no!”

Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Klimp (ret.)

President, National Association for Uniformed Services

Springfield, Va.

I am a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard with two deployments to Iraq and almost 14 years of service.

On March 8, I received an email from my school that all federal tuition assistance requests would be suspended for the next semester if requests were not submitted before 1600 of the same day.

I tried submitting my request at 1400 and was told that all FTA was already suspended, and when I called my school, they said that all FTA was suspended shortly after the announcement was made.

The statement on the FTA website states that “the decision was hard, but there are other options like GI Bill and student loans.” Of course, young soldiers that don’t get paid enough and have families that they struggle to support should go take out some more loans if they can even qualify.

The choice to take away FTA from young soldiers and veterans and the way it was handled is reprehensible. [These are] young soldiers and veterans who are trying to better their lives by getting an education that the government promised they would help with in return for their service, and veterans who volunteered to give their lives to defend the same people who just took away their education benefits.

I know soldiers in the Guard who could not find work when they came home from Iraq (which is a shame in itself) and have been using all of the education benefits available so they can not only go to school but afford rent and care for their families.

I guess it’s OK to cut programs meant to assist veterans while lawmakers get per diem and taxpayer-funded vehicles and transportation on top of their salaries.

Staff Sgt. Michael Goss

Pennsylvania Army National Guard

The armed forces have been abandoned from the top. Our elected officials fail to adhere to policies and refuse to pass a budget, yet keep borrowing money with no plan to pay it back. Because of this gross irresponsibility and what was on record as “leadership failure” during the last administration, cuts have to be made. For some reason, they are falling on the people who keep this country safe.

Recently, you reported tuition assistance has been suspended. Does anyone really think someone will cut spending, pass a budget and get things back on track? TA is gone: Service members can now no longer seek a higher education.

When I was a private, I was counseled monthly, my leaders encouraging me to take a few classes, get my education and take advantage of the benefit I earned. After moving up in rank, I counseled soldiers to do the same. Now that’s just not important anymore?

However, just the other week, $250 million was “found” to give to Egypt; $50 million was found for Transportation Security Administration to get new uniforms.

The priority list, if one could possibly exist, needs to be re-evaluated. Where are our elected officials?

Sgt. 1st Class Robert S. Hall (ret.)

Scarborough, Maine

‘39 ways you pay’

I want to comment on a few of the “39 ways you pay for Washington’s failures:” [March 4]:

• 7. If you close the Defense Commissary one day a week, does that mean you will not have the income from the shoppers for that day, and how does that financially compare to closing?

• 8. Why are church services canceled? Is it not true that chaplains are paid once a month, or are they not paid for the day church is not held?

• 9. Has anyone heard of asking for volunteers to assist in keeping the self-help stores open?

• 10. If they really wanted to do workouts, they do not need to go to a fitness center.

• 13. No fresh towels to cut laundry costs (bring your own) and canceling the satellite radio subscription.

Really, what is wrong with a local radio station?

During my time in the service, we worked 24 hours a day if necessary because that is what we were paid to do. When necessary, we took care of our own landscaping around the area and didn’t b---- about it.

Sometimes, enough is enough. Be thankful that you are not living on short-term unemployment or standing in line for a job.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Donald E. Macaulay (ret.)

San Antonio

If you wish to protect the things that matter — pay, retirement and health care — I would suggest purchasing your own lawn mower and bringing your own towel to the gym.

Lt. Cmdr. Thomas E. Klett (ret.)

Sarasota, Fla.

Fairness in health care

I wholeheartedly agree with five out of the six reforms [“Hagel’s window for long-term reforms,” March 11], but you continue to advocate for means-tested retiree benefits. Basing the premium solely on retired pay is not truly equitable.

I served in a technical field. Many retired noncommissioned officers with lower military retirement left at 20 years and took lucrative private-sector jobs. Their total income is much higher than my retirement will be after 32 years of service, yet their medical premiums will be lower. At a minimum, the premiums should be based on total income, not military retirement.

Why should military retirees have their health care means-tested before the country does the same with Medicare? Means-testing Medicare would save a great deal more money than means-testing the few who have sacrificed so much already.

That would be true “shared” sacrifice, since it would affect military retirees on Tricare for Life in the same way their civilian counterparts are affected. Only once that has been done should military retirees be asked to allow their benefits to be means-tested.

Sgt. Maj. John A. Latham

Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

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