Retirement Passes Healthcare as Top Benefit for Current Service Members

FRA-TealAlexandria, VA – More than 1,000 current and former service members cited retirement and military and veterans’ healthcare programs as the most important benefits of military service in a recent survey sponsored by the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA). The military non-profit association’s annual quality-of-life benefits survey gauges the concerns of the military community and helps determine the Association’s top legislative priorities for the coming year. FRA shares data from this and its other quarterly surveys with legislators and military leaders to inform them about the impact legislation may have on service personnel and their families.

For the past several years, healthcare has consistently been a top concern for all segments of the military community – active duty and Reserve personnel, retirees and veterans – and was again ranked as the most important benefit among military retirees and veterans. This year’s survey, however, revealed that active duty and Reserve personnel view their military retirement as the most important benefit, ranking it above their base pay and healthcare benefits.

Healthcare access was the top-ranked concern among retirees and veterans, and was ranked third among active duty and Reserve participants. More than 94 percent of retiree respondents and nearly 84 percent of veteran participants said access to Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans’ Affairs (VA) healthcare benefits was “very important.” Quality of care and the cost of DoD or VA healthcarerounded out the top three benefits for both the retired and veteran communities. Ninety-one percent of active duty respondents and 73 percent of Reserve participants also said healthcare access was “very important.”

All Reservists responding to the survey and 97 percent of active duty participants ranked retirement benefits as a very important benefit. As Congress considers plans to reduce DoD costs by revamping the military retirement program, that benefit is particularly relevant to active duty and Reserve component personnel. Many current service members have expressed concern about the future of the retired pay and healthcare benefits they’ve been promised after they complete a career of military service.

“These survey responses strengthen FRA’s efforts to preserve the value of the current retirement benefit,” said Joe Barnes, FRA’s national executive director. “They also reinforce our work to reduce retirement-age eligibility for Reservists. Current law reduces the age requirement by three months for each 90-day period of active service since January 29, 2008 – the date the law was enacted. FRA advocates including all Reservists who’ve served since October 7, 2001, to ensure those who provided exceptional service immediately after the 2001 terrorist attacks on our nation are also eligible.”

Base pay ranked as the second most important benefit of military service among active duty and Reserve respondents. FRA continues to press for active-duty pay raises that are at least equal to the Employment Cost Index in order to keep pace with salaries in the civilian workplace in recognition of the challenges of military duty. Other key benefits for those currently serving included housing allowances, education benefits and commissary/exchange privileges.

This year’s survey results also show that more than 71 percent of retired respondents, up from 70 percent last year, are frustrated by laws that prevent many disabled retirees from receiving their full military retired pay and VA disability compensation. The concurrent receipt of these earned benefits for all disabled retirees, without offset, remains a high priority for FRA.

FRA also seeks improvements to the VA claims process, the fourth most important concern among veterans who took the survey. Reducing the backlog of unresolved VA claims is one of FRA’s top veterans’ priorities, along with its efforts to reverse the department’s policy that prevents Vietnam veterans who served off-shore from claiming disability benefits for diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

FRA sponsors a new survey each quarter, asking current and former enlisted members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to share their views and concerns. These matters are consistently addressed in FRA’s congressional testimony, correspondence with key legislators and military leaders, and in one-on-one meetings with lawmakers and their staff. All current and former service members are invited to participate in FRA’s current survey on absentee voting at