'A Grotesque Bloating'

Upon reading your editorial (Feb. 18), "A Grotesque Bloating," it makes me wonder as to just who is "bloated" and equally "grotesque"--the writer or the subject of government pensions.

It is again, during these comparatively peaceful times, the time for those so inclined to take their best shots at the military, both active and retired. There is little bleeding, violent death, imprisonment, sudden dislocation, family separation, etc., thus the immediate accusation that the "huge civilian comparable" salaries are not being justifiably earned.

Something that is rarely, if ever, mentioned is the plain fact that this "generous retirement plan," "health benefit plan," and "other privileges" are indeed available to almost every American. They need only to devote the required years of their lives to an honorable, controlled service whereby they sacrifice family life, union benefits, 40-hour weeks (or time-plus for overtime), weekends at their leisure, etc., and yes, their very lives when conditions so dictate.

Having opted to serve a military career spanning three wars, the resultant combat flying, Berlin Airlift and other operations too numerous to list, I find your attitude--one obviously shared with yet another equally misinformed person, Budget Director David Stockman--to be repulsive, to say the least, from ignorance at best, certainly not from fact.

If you are so envious or anxious to partake of this "gravy train" I will gladly make every effort to assist in gaining you the opportunity of enlisting, whereby you can then smugly flaunt your comparable pay and bloated privileges.



Bravo for your editorial, approving Budget Director Stockman's timely and much-needed assessment of the excesses of the military retirement services.

Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's rebuttal that Stockman's remarks were "insulting and demeaning" seem self-serving. President Reagan commented that this program "is a little different than any other pension program." Sure is. It's a sacred cow that should be retired (without pension) and revived in a form that is fiscally logical and socially equitable.


La Canada

I am on vacation here with my family and just read your editorial.

As many others, you paint a false picture of the military retirement system, based upon misinformation and words that are easily misinterpreted.

I have spent 22 years in the Air Force. If I retire tomorrow, I will take a 70% pay cut. I do not get 50% of my pay as you state. But, in any case, I cannot afford to retire. My daughter is starting college in September. Get another job, you say? Doing what? I am 22 years out of college. The military has not allowed me to keep my skills current. What should I do, to compete in today's job market? Perhaps middle management is the answer. How many companies do you know that hire middle managers outside the company?

Let's be honest. The military retirement system is a payoff for being treated like dirt for 20 plus years. And, believe me, it's not enough. I moved and bought a house with an 18% mortgage. I don't have any dental coverage; my daughter's braces came out of my pay. If my family gets sick, they go to a public health hospital with the welfare folks. Every three or four years, my children leave their friends and start over. The list could go on, but I'm sure you see the point.

My retirement, what there is of it, is not a grotesque bloating. It's partial compensation for being treated like garbage for 20 years while defending you and your freedom.

Believe me, the price is right!


Chelmsford, Mass.

Until the American people have the courage to man our nation's defense with their children the military retirement system will appear bloated. If high school graduates were drafted into the Army for two years the large pay raises wouldn't be necessary.

The military is in competition with private industry for young workers. Large pay raises may sway some people into joining the military. With a draft no large pay raises would be necessary, therefore the cost of retirement would go down.

Most articles written about the military retirement system conveniently forget a few facts. The serviceman's pay is taxed, both while on active duty and during retirement. The retiree also carries with him a set of orders that tell him where he is to report to in case of national emergency. And, here is the most important reason why the retirement system should not be changed. For 20 or more years the serviceman was always ready to go where ever America needed him. Unlike some, this man didn't avoid the draft.

To cheat this man would be to cheapen our self-worth in a way that may result in our forces not being manned in an emergency.


Garden Grove

Your editorial calls for changes to the military retirement pay program. There is probably merit in examining the system, I agree. But Stockman's affront to the honor of the military retiree was not the way to start.

Military commanders, as management anywhere, experience the demands and difficulties in recruiting, maintaining and motivating good personnel. Their job would be a lot easier with understanding support.

I applaud President Reagan and Secretary Weinberger for their positive support. Hopefully, others such as yourselves, will do likewise. Constructive legislation would be far more productive than negative rhetoric.

Hundreds of studies have found difficulty in comparing military pay packages with civilian ones because of differing basic motivations, job requirements, life styles, and commitments. A civilian job description does not carry that extra, mandatory commitment over a career life cycle. A civilian participant can "walk off" his job at any time. The military participant cannot. The ultimate commitment that the military must give is life itself. And it's impossible to put a number on that one.


Newport Beach

Your editorial contains the following sentence: "Military pensions, like those for civilian employees of the government, have become grotesquely bloated." This is hyperbole.

"Grotesquely bloated" is a term that should be reserved for the pensions of corporate executives like J. Peter Grace, the most often quoted critic of federal retirement programs. He received $357,000 from his company's retirement plan in 1983, and he isn't even retired. As customers for his company's products, the public pays for his retirement just as surely as it does for military and civilian government retirement programs.



Terry W. Hartle (Editorial Pages, Feb. 12) apparently thinks "military pensions are fair game," at least for cheap shots. He states that "a recent analysis calculated that a 39-year-old retiree with a $25,000 salary would receive lifetime benefits in excess of $1 million." While that analysis is mathematically correct, such a hypothetical retiree would have had to enlist as a private at age 19, and be promoted to major general in only 20 years! In fact, the typical 39-year-old retiree would be a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps (pay grade E-7).

The "lavish" and "exceptionally generous" paycheck this typical retiree would get would be a whopping $802 per month (even before state and federal taxes are deducted, this is only about 33% of his final paycheck; not 50% as Hartle asserts). To earn this scandalous amount, all he had to do was spend years separated from his family while wedding anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, and even possibly the births of one or more of his children were taken place. Oh, and he probably got to spend a year or two in Southeast Asia ducking some real shots.

Some of his friends probably forgot to duck, or ducked too slowly, and died in the service of their country. For this sacrifice our generous government gave the next-of-kin $15,000.

During his 20-year career, he also got to move his family every three or four years, maybe more often, and always at considerable personal expense. So, in the midst of his "prime working years" he decides to retire and wait to collect his $1 million that Hartle begrudges him so much.

But this gunnery sergeant knows that he'll get that million bucks. At $802 a month, all he has to do is live another 103.9 years.


Los Angeles

Peck is director of the Marine Corps Public Affairs Office in Los Angeles.

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