Sunday, July 03, 2005
The brief that the US Secretary of Defense missed. (Part-I)
Q . Sir, this is for you, Mr. Secretary. I'm an active-duty lieutenant colonel, divorced, full custody of two small children. My ex-husband resigned from the military because it wasn't lucrative enough for him. During our marriage, our nine years together, he tripled his income due to the support I provided him while he went to school full- time. And by the way, I supported a family with my military paycheck. Now I'm living with a divorce decree that not only directs me to provide a large chunk of my retirement pay to him; it also directs me to start paying him upon reaching 20 years in service, whether I choose to retire at 20 years or not. This is forcing me out of the military next year. I can't afford to write a paycheck -- write a check to my ex-husband every month out of my military pay. By the way, he makes thousands and thousands of dollars more than I do. This is a result of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act. I'm not the only one affected by this injustice. There are many other injustices that have been imposed on military members for years. Sir, we are your supporters, some of your biggest supporters in this country, and we would like to get support from our leadership as well.
SEC. RUMSFELD: This is a statute, the -
GEN. MYERS: Right. It's a law. ( Skippy-comment: A bad law not even constitutional at that!).
SEC. RUMSFELD: A law.
GEN. MYERS: In the past. (Skippy-comment: NO General, its still very much in the present!)
Q . Sir. Yes, sir. Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, which, sir, I was told that you supported. ( Skippy-comment : You do support it Mr Secretary, or do you have no say in Pentagon PR?)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've never heard of it. (Laughter.) ( Yeaah...right......)
Q. And, sir, as you may know, or may not know, the divorce rate in the military is much higher than it is in the civilian sector, and it is growing.
SEC. RUMSFELD: When did this law go into effect?
Q. Oh, sir, people have been trying to fight this for 20 years.
GEN. MYERS: Yes, it's old. It's a couple -- it's at least 15, 20 years it's been around, right? Ten, 15, 20 years? (Skippy-comment: Its 23 years old as you know perfectly well. Ask your wife, I guarantee you she knows all about it!)
Q. Well, before I came into the military, sir.
GEN. MYERS: Right.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'll be happy to have David Chu look at it. I'm just not knowledgeable, I'm afraid, about it. (Skippy Translation: I intend to do nothing about this as I know perfectly well Dr. Chu has been stonewalling progress on this and other veteran's benefit issues.)
GEN. MYERS: It was different -- actually, it was created, I think, in different times. I think was part of the mindset when spouses were normally women-- (Skippy-san comment: So you have heard of it!)
GEN. MYERS: -- and when they probably did not work, and when--
Q. But sir, even--
GEN. MYERS: Yeah. So it needs to be looked at. I think the secretary's idea is a good idea. (Skippy -san comment: So what are really saying is that doing nothing about an important personnel pay and benefits issues is a good idea?)
Q. May I say one more thing, please, sir? I know that it was set for a much earlier generation. But I will say that since I've been in the military, since August of 1986, everywhere I've been stationed, and Germany included, even female spouses have had opportunities for jobs, given preference for government jobs, had opportunities for education beyond high school. There's always some sort of college program. So although you may look and this may sound a little bit shocking to you because now there's a woman having to pay an ex-husband who makes just a lot more money than a lot of us in this room, this is an issue that is not a gender issue, it
is a military service member issue. And, frankly, we need some support, and we'd like for you to support change or congressional amendment to the current act and actually help promote it, because we can't get a congressman or anybody to touch this. (Skippy-san comment: Truer words have never been spoken. And Donald Rumsfeld won't touch this either. Support in his book is a one way street.....) .
SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll have David Chu take a look at it. Thank you. (How many times have I told you guys, only put the sycophants in the room....... ) .
This little exchange sounds innocuous, but really its very illustrative of a whole lot of things that are wrong with Don Rumsfeld's DOD today. Now I recognize that the Secretary is a busy man and between running 4 wars on terrorism, transformation" (read: gutting of) the armed forces, and driving US foreign policy in the opposite direction of the previous Secretary of State, well that's a pretty full plate for any one. And I am not naive enough to believe that this particular issue should be number 1, 2,3,4, or even 5 on his "to do" list. Nor should it be way up there. Like I said, he's got a lot on his to do list. And this war and its implications for the US and its armed forces is deadly serious business. But it should be on the list. One of the perks that comes with running , literally, the largest business in the world; is the ability to delegate this to folks who can make this a high priority. "Say the word and it can be done." Furthermore this is, as they describe in Pentagon "briefspeak", "low hanging fruit" that can be dealt with relatively easily by the Department of Defense.
Plus, no matter how busy Don Rumsfeld or General Myers are, its complete fantasy to believe that they have never, ever, not in the slightest, heard about this law. If that is really true, and I doubt it, then it is a sad commentary on the supposed unity of the "military coalition" of veteran's lobbyists. One of their big responsibilities is to keep these types of compensation issues in front of major decision makers. Furthermore, it is hard for me to believe that since the Secretary himself was named respondent in a major law suit, that may go all the way to the Supreme Court; that there was not , at least one time in the past few years, an occasion that he was briefed on it. I guarantee you General Myers knows about it. You do not get that far in the military without at least having one or two flag officer friends who "traded up", later in their careers, and became subject to the law. ( As an aside, it would be interesting to see how many of those "second hand models, were once military officers ( or in at least one case I know of personally:enlisted, themselves. That is for another post......)).
Dr. Chu knows about it, that is 100% sure. And he has made it very clear that repealing or reforming this incredibly stupid law is not a priority with him. After all, he is the same man that said, before Congress, that honoring a social contract...e.g. " a promise made is one that should be kept" , is hurting US military readiness. He's also the same guy who opposed:
1) Concurrent receipt
2) Reduced Reserve retirement age
3) Health Care improvements for veterans
4) Hikes in Imminent danger pay and family separation allowance .
The sad part of this whole exchange between the Lt Col, who I am sure is being taken aside and given "wall to wall" counseling, and the SECDEF, is that the fixes that DOD can advocate are relatively easy to do, and would go a long way towards smoothing the road with Congress who in the end, must approve any changes to US law. At the very least, even if it got voted down in Congress, it would send a huge message to both active duty and retirees, that the current SECDEF cares about them and their long term issues. More on that in part II of this series this week.
However, I'll bet you a pint of your favorite beverage, that this is the last that the current SECDEF deals with this particular issue.......which leaves at least a couple of folks, wishing they could live like OJ.......