Memorial, reform updates for veterans

Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist

April 29, 2014

Another DoD proposal, reported by the Military Times newspaper, would be to revamp the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) to save money by increasing the premium that retirees pay for coverage. The SBP is provided at no cost to active-duty troops. Retirees also can purchase it to ensure monthly military pension checks continue coming to their spouse in the event of their death.

The new Pentagon proposal, part of a broader plan to overhaul the military retirement system, calls for raising the premium cap for retirees from 6.5 percent of each monthly retirement check to 10 percent. At the same time, the maximum payout for beneficiaries would be reduced to 50 percent of retired pay, down from the current payout of 55 percent. The proposal also would limit retirees to two basic options:

• A “full benefit” that would cost 10 percent of gross monthly retirement pay and would continue to pay beneficiaries 50 percent of the military pension.

• A “half benefit” that would cost 5 percent of gross monthly retirement pay and continue paying beneficiaries 25 percent of the military pension.

The proposal was included in a report the Pentagon sent to Congress 6 MAR outlining potential changes to the entire military retirement system. The new proposal also calls for eliminating the offset policy that reduces SBP payments if the survivor is also receiving benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department.

That means the net value of a total survivor benefit may increase in some cases. The report notes that survivors also would benefit from the related proposal to shift some of the military retirement benefit away from fixed-income pensions and into a civilian-style investment account that is owned by the service member or retiree. Any funds remaining after death can be passed along to family members.

The National Association of Uniformed Services (NAUS) commented on the Military Times article noting that it SBP was originally set up for retirees wanting to ensure that their surviving spouse continued to receive a portion of their retirement pay to purchase. Extending the benefit to spouses of troops who die on active duty was added several years later. NAUS’s goal is to repeal the SBP/DIC offset. SBP is an insurance policy, paid by DoD and purchased by the service member, to provide for a surviving loved one. DIC is compensation paid by VA for a service-connected death.

They have been working for years to have this happen. NAUS does not support the DoD proposal to reduce the survivor payment to 50 percent and increase the insurance premium to 10 percent to change this hurtful policy of reducing SBP by the amount of DIC received. They are firmly committed to assure, as stated by Congress and the President, that “keeping our promises about grandfathering any changes to military compensation and retirement programs will remain a central principle in the process.”

The states of Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, the American Legion, veterans with plaques surrounding the Memorial Cross, including Bronze Star recipient and retired U.S. Army Colonel David G. Epstein, and members of the U.S. Congress are among the parties who filed friend-of-the-court briefs this week in support of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association’s (MSMA) petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to save the historic Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross in San Diego. Liberty Institute and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, which represent the MSMA, submitted the petition to the Supreme Court last month.

“We are encouraged by the outpouring of support that the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association has received for its petition to have the U.S. Supreme Court settle, once and for all, the constitutionality of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute President and CEO. “In addition to this national treasure — the nation’s oldest Korean War Veterans Memorial — the fate of hundreds of other similar veterans memorials, erected to honor the selfless sacrifice of our nation’s war heroes, hangs in the balance.”

To view the briefs online, follow these five links:






The MSMA’s cert petition (i.e. writ seeking judicial review) to the Supreme Court seeks review of the case, Mt. Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk, et al., follows a district court’s order in December requiring the removal of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross.

Erected in 1954, the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is the nation’s oldest Korean War Veterans Memorial. It contains more than 3,600 plaques honoring individual veterans’ selfless sacrifice and service. Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. For additional information go to

For fiscal year 2015, the Marine Corps has been authorized to offer voluntary retirement at a reduced monthly retainer-pay rate to Reserve-component staff sergeants. The Marine Corps Active Reserve Enlisted Temporary Early Retirement Authority Program (TERA) gives early retirement benefits to Active-Reserve Marines.

Applicants must have more than 15 years and less than 20 years of active-duty service, be a staff sergeant and hold one of several specific military occupational specialties. The Marine Corps established a submission window for TERA between the dates of March 21, 2014 and Sept. 1, 2014. The first eligible date to transfer to the Marine Corps Reserve, under TERA, is July 31, 2014. TERA is not an entitlement. Each request will be considered on an individual basis.