Citizen Soldiers. Weekend Warriors. Chairborne Rangers. Warrior Citizens.
We’ve heard them all, and say them to each other on occasion, but seriously, most folks haven’t a clue what the differences are between Active Duty and Reserve Component soldiers.
The similarities are easier to explain. We train to the same standards; all serve when called; put the mission first; bleed red blood; and write the same blank check to the American People for our lives, livelihoods, personal safety and comfort.
Why is it then, when it’s time to remunerate those of us who dedicate ourselves to the defense and honor of our great nation, that some wish to reduce, alter, and desanctify our compensation? The Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation wants to do just that, saying recently that Reserve soldiers are “over paid.”
Leaders of the Congressionally chartered Reserve Officers Association recently met with the Review panel in an effort to explain how Reserve soldiers are in fact UNDERPAID compared to Active Duty soldiers.
I am $201,600 less valuable than an Active Duty soldier who may never have served in a combat zone.
They pointed out that when all the numbers are crunched and a Pay-to-Work ratio establishedReserve soldiers are paid LESS than Active soldiers. Reserve soldiers also receive fewer benefits and tend not to live close enough to military bases to take advantage of services and amenities those bases offer Active soldiers and their families. Retired pay for Reserve soldiers cannot be collected until age 60, whereas Active soldiers can draw retired pay immediately upon serving 20 years of honorable service.
The Congressional Budget Office is squeezing Reserve compensation by recommending reductions such as capping military pay raises, retired pay reduced by the amount granted in tax relief (called concurrent relief), narrowing eligibility for Veterans Administration compensation, and by targeting “Individual Unemployablity” benefits.
President Obama is pushing to reduce Tri-Care health coverage for Reserve soldiers and wants more base closings, which continued sequestration would almost certainly require. These two things make health care services for Reserve veteran soldiers less and less accessible.
Again, are Reserve Component soldiers less important? If so, why not just come out and say it and then see what happens to retention and morale, and subsequently our nation’s ability to provide adequate defense?
Reserve soldiers make up the majority of combat support and combat service support units in the Army, such as Military Police, medical, transportation and logistics units. In other words, without the Reserve Components the capability and integrity of our Army would be fatally compromised.
We gave up careers, left our families, and disrupted our civilian lives for the cause of preserving freedom and liberty in the Global War on Terror. I was forced to change jobs before leaving for a 14-month mobilization to Iraq in 2004-2005 – that job was eventually eliminated by my employer and I was told when I returned, “you’re not here enough.”
I now earn half of what I would have been earning and instead of less than a five-mile commute to work each day I travel over 100 miles round trip. Gasoline and wear-and-tear on my 10-year-old vehicle alone costs me over $6,000 per year. And let’s not forget the two-and-a-half hours per day I spend on the road is time I am not with my wife and five children – who, in my opinion, suffered enough from my absences during my three mobilization deployments since Sept. 1, 2001.
I retired from the Reserves in 2008 after 22 years of honorable service at the age of 46. Under the current law I cannot draw retired pay until after turning 60. Were I an Active Duty soldier I could have begun drawing retired pay immediately upon retirement.
In my case, because I am a reserve component “gray area” retiree, compared with the Active Duty, I lose 14 years of earning potential. At $1,200 per month (my estimated retired pay), I lose $14,400 per year, which is $201,600 over 14 years. That means, I am $201,600 less valuable than an Active Duty counterpart who may never even have served in a combat zone.
If you are a Reserve Component (Reserve or National Guard) soldier, spouse, dependent, parent, or concerned American, please contact the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (to write, P.O. Box 13170, Arlington, VA 22209, or call, 703-692-2080), which is collecting comments in an effort to recommend changes to current Reserve Component compensation. Let your voice be heard that Reserve soldiers are every bit as valuable and important to our national defense than are Active Duty soldiers, and every bit as human.