Hawaii vets express skepticism over possible changes to retirement pay

Hawaii vets express skepticism over possible changes to retirement pay
Published: Feb. 21, 2015 at 9:16 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2015 at 10:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Military veterans are expressing some doubt over possible changes to retirement pay and compensation.

The recommendations come from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which was established by Congress in 2013. Those recommendations would affect all military personnel, including the 120,000 veterans and 50,000 active military in Hawaii.

"Every category of service, every level of service, from retirees, active, National Guard and Reserve and families, and see if we could do something better," said Rep. Mark Takai (D-1st Congressional District).

Many veterans who spoke at a meeting Saturday at the Oahu Veterans Center expressed skepticism that the changes are better.

"The compensation committee was given the role of, 'How do you cut our retirement?' And they came up with fancy ways to cut our retirement," said veteran Caz Ross.

The recommended changes include having the government contribute to something similar to a 401(k) investment account. But critics say that unless active service members also contribute to the account, they risk having less money for retirement.

"You invest your money there and you'll get a whole bunch of money," said Ross. "We'll pay you less but in the long run, because you have a good manager, you'll make more. But that's not true."

A survey conducted by the Military Officers Association of America also registered opposition. "The active duty population, 71 percent prefer the current retirement model," said Mark Torreano, president of the association's Hawaii Chapter.

Overall, reaction to the 15 recommendations was mixed, with some concerned that it will harm the all-volunteer military.

"On Wall Street, they know that if you reduce pay and benefits, you reduce talent," said Matt McCarville, a retired Army veteran who is now a financial advisory with Morgan Stanley. "Although we can't judge the extent of that in advance, I think that's the risk we take by going down this path."

The president has until April 1 to report to Congress whether the recommendations should move forward.

Read the recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission here.

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