White House Endorses Recommendations to Overhaul Military Compensation

President Obama said Monday he will support the broad package of reforms to military pay and benefits proposed earlier this year by a congressionally chartered panel.

“I believe the recommendations are an important step forward in protecting the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force, improving quality-of-life for service members and their families, and ensuring the fiscal sustainability of the military compensation and retirement systems,” Obama wrote in a letter to Congress.

The president said the administration will send Congress by April 30 a set of legislative proposals based on the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, reported Stars and Stripes.

The most sweeping changes proposed by the committee would affect retirement and health care benefits, including replacing the 20-year retirement benefit with other options to offer benefits to personnel who separate from the military before reaching the traditional retirement milestone, and replacing Tricare health coverage with a wide variety of private insurance plans.

Other recommendations focused on quality-of-life benefits, including consolidating the commissary and exchange systems, expanding daycare services on installations and requiring mandatory participation in the Transition GPS education track .The recommendations could save almost $5 billion next year and up to $10.4 billion per year by 2020, the panel stated.

The proposals have received widespread report on Capitol Hill, but a mixed response from groups representing veterans and military families who worry the reforms go too far in an effort to cut the federal deficit.  

Speaking at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Monday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the department is exploring different retirement system options: “I’m looking very hard right now at blended retirement plans that would be similar to the 401(k) mechanism that is widespread in civil society.”

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