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Military Pension Plan Is an Ivory Tower Solution : Medical 'Marriage' Needed : Your cluster of articles under "Medicine Takes On New Look" (Feb. 10) is timely, well documented and provides important information for both providers and consumers of medical service. The dramatic changing world of doctors, joined by the changing world of hospitals and coupled with an infusion of alternative care units, is indeed revolutionizing the health plan "game plan." No other system has had such dramatic change in such a short period of time. : Historically, physicians were entrepreneurs--working for themselves and wanting no interference. Groupism is becoming the mode. Hospitals are diversifying their services--a necessity in face of reduced numbers of patients and lengths of patient stay. Many of the changes and adjustments taking place are painful for physicians and hospitals. It is predicted that a stronger "marriage" of the hospital and medical staffs working together in union to resolve the problems resulting from changes is essential for the survival of both. : STUART E. MARSEE : Chairman, South Bay Hospital, Board of Trustees : Redondo Beach : Letters to the Business Editor should be as brief as possible and are subject to condensation.

February 24, 1985

Lester C. Thurow's article, "Military Pension System Should Be Replaced by Severance Pay, Bonuses" (Feb. 17) reflects uninformed problem-solving typical of eggheads in ivory towers. Service personnel do not receive "pensions" for past services, do not realize half-pay at 20 years, do not have any vested interest in retirement pay and are usually subject to being passed over for promotion or pressured to get out by military managers after 20 years, without much option to stay in.

As to Thurow's major premise regarding severance pay and bonuses instead of "pensions," the U.S. Supreme Court held in a community property dispute involving the disposition of the husband's military pension (McCarty vs. McCarty, 1981), that service personnel receive "retired or retainer pay" because they are a trained pool of man/woman-power subject to recall to active duty in a national emergency or war.

Retirees are retained in the mobilization plans of the secretary of defense as a ready reserve. They are given reduced pay for present and future reduced services on standby duty. They are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice during retirement and may be court-martialed for infractions of the rules.

Concerning half-pay on 20 years' service: make that half of base pay, which constitutes only about 35% of the gross compensation received on active duty. Regarding Thurow's anguish over losing all that trained talent after 20 years' service: The historical policy of military managers has been to force early retirement through poor duty assignments and promotion passover at that crucial career point; it is usually not the other way around, such that the member has the option of staying.

We are all eager to correct expensive, lousy systems, but let us call it what it really is: a cheap way to maintain a pool of cannon fodder for the next war.


Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

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