As the President of the March Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) chapter, I am taking this opportunity to ask you to read the information below. We are all aware of the budget crisis we are facing as a nation, but do you know what cuts are being proposed and how they will affect our benefits? There are a number of our benefits on the chopping block, but I would like to shed some light on two of them; commissaries and retirement pay.
As a cost-saving measure, the Pentagon is taking a look at closing all stateside commissaries in 2015. The proposal was part of recent preparations for the fiscal 2015 Department of Defense budget request that is due out in February, which is a sign of the budget pressures weighing on the Pentagon because of sequestration.
The budget deal announced Dec. 17, 2013, reduced the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for retirees under age 62 by one percent each year. A bipartisan budget deal that passed on Dec. 18, 2013, significantly slashed retirement benefits for current and future military retirees, up to the age of 62, by one percent every year for the next 20 years, which does not keep up with inflation. The cuts will have a devastating and long-lasting impact, reducing retired pay for those who serve a 20-year career by nearly 20 percent over their lifetime. The proposed COLA cut is far worse than the 1986 retirement cuts that had to be repealed after it undermined retention.
Of all the cuts being proposed, there seems to be an ominous immediacy around these two proposals. Closing commissaries would have an immediate effect on our families and result in the loss of yet another great benefit we may sometimes overlook. Commissaries are also a valued part of our total compensation package. Closing them could adversely affect recruitment and retention efforts. Cutting retired COLA means that pay will not keep up with inflation. I am sure we can all agree that, with all the proposed cuts, the last thing we want is to lose money we have earned. If this budget provision is accepted by the House it would be phased in starting in December 2014.
The Air Force Sergeants Association
The AFSA is the only association solely dedicated to representing our needs and the needs of our families. The Association lobbys Congress on our behalf and has a by-name seat at the influential tables in Congress and at the Pentagon. The AFSA does more than just fight to maintain our existing benefits and allowances. They contribute to the discussion in a way so that lawmakers can better understand our needs. Consider this: only 20 percent of the current members of Congress have ever served in the Armed Forces, which means that 80 percent of the lawmakers who are making the decisions about our pay and benefits have never served. This is why the AFSA is such an important organization; they help that 80 percent gain an inside perspective on the impact of their decisions.
The more members we have here at March, and across the entire Air Force, the stronger and more influential our association is. If maintaining your benefits and pay are important to you, I urge you to take action and join the AFSA. Once you are a member, you will have access to a powerful tool that will allow you to send pre-drafted letters to elected officials with just a few clicks of a mouse. The more letters we send the better our chances of retaining our hard-earned benefits. You can sign up for the AFSA at www.hqafsa.org by clicking on “Join AFSA.” Dues are $25 for each year, $44 for two years and $64 for three years. Airman Basic through Senior Airman, or E-1 through E-4, can receive two years for $25. If you live out of the area you will be assigned to the nearest installation, so ensure you select our chapter from the drop down menu, March ARB, Chapter F1360. Under recruiter ID ensure you enter 98366 so our local chapter can get a rebate on your dues. If you have any questions or need assistance with signing up, do not hesitate to call me on my cell at 951-842-9727. Remember these mottos, One Team One Fight and United We Stand. The basic concept is that united we can accomplish great things but if we don’t stand together and get involved we can be easily defeated.