Fox News Radio’s Bill Sammon and Matt Cardoza have exclusive access to retired U.S. Marines in Florida. And they explain the battle over retirement income in the electric energy fight.
Now, many Marines with the Electric Power Research Institute say a decision to rescind a bonus package that lets them retire at 45 years old, instead of 60, was intended to take them out of contention for jobs in a booming electric-energy industry in Florida and other Sun Belt states. And though they’re still fighting to keep it, the promise they believe was made to them might finally be off the table.
“The first thing I saw on the news was their future being threatened,” said John Moore, a retired Sgt. Major with the Marine Corps’ electric department.
More than 30,000 veterans already work in an industry that’s gotten out of hand, Moore said.
“Electric power companies were laying off 600 to 700 workers a month,” he said. “They were unable to expand their workforces because of the aging retirement of their workforce.”
He said he and other Marines receive a federal bonus equal to a year’s worth of pay — two years worth of base pay — if they choose to retire at 45 instead of 60, saving them at least $15,000 a year in retirement benefits. But shortly after retirement eligibility ended in December, an internal memo was published in major newspapers that has Marines questioning whether they can continue to collect the bonus even after the government cut them off.
“There are some very specific disabilities due to traumatic brain injury, flashbacks, that went hand in hand with serving as a Marine,” said Jim Loften, a retired Sgt. Major with the electric department. “I didn’t know if there was something wrong. But apparently what they’re saying is, ‘We’re no longer paying that incentive, we’re not going to allow that anymore.’ And that’s kind of counterintuitive.”
Sgt. Maj. Moore said he received multiple letters from former commanding officers saying he could still continue to collect the bonus if he used it to buy a home, one that might help him remain physically fit.
“And so this was going to allow me to afford to be able to continue to do that, to live near the community that I’m serving in,” he said.
The Marines fear others will decide the $15,000 incentive isn’t worth having to return for a second combat tour.
“Our entire professional military, our entire military community, if this goes away then all of them are going to be thrown out of employment because this incentive is the catalyst to make people stay in our workforce and to encourage and entice them to stay in service,” said Moore.
The state and industry groups that make up the Electric Power Research Institute say the memo – supposedly written to encourage and entice Marines to take jobs at the industry, not to cut the Marine Corps bonus – got twisted out of context. Officials say the memo recommended that Marines work within the grid to update the technology at power plants, not at the end-users themselves. They say there were other ways the bonus could be reduced without having to take it away.
“These are retirees who’ve served this country for a long time,” said Lt. Col. Keene Fergus, a spokesman for the Electric Power Research Institute. “And what we’re trying to do is to provide an incentive for them to continue to stay in service to the military and to their country. And what this effort is all about is just understanding fully what the language really means and how that affects veterans who’ve been in service and who’ve been trained and trained and are at the end of their 20s and going into retirement.”
Loften and Moore said the Marines planned to meet with the institute later this week to work out the issue, but they aren’t confident they will be able to keep the bonus.
“They could be stuck in a position where we will be losing the incentive entirely,” said Moore.