- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

God save whom?

I suggest that it's way past time we called a halt to the practice of referring to "The Queen of England," the most recent mention of whom occurred in the "Nobles and Knaves" editorial of March 30. Mainly because, there is no Queen of England. There hasn't been one since 1707, or King of England, either, for that matter. England, surprising as this must be to some, isn't a country; the United Kingdom, or Britain, is. Elizabeth's title is "Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and Territories; Head of the Commonwealth." You could look it up.

The writers of the Declaration of Independence got with the program, referring to "the present King of Great Britain," and that was a long time ago. Now how about The Times's editorial and writing staff? Maybe you can show the Other Paper the way it's done; they keep getting this wrong after being told over and over and over and…


George Hamlin

Clarksville Md.

Military ex-wives a disservice to servicemen

Your March 31 front-page special report, "Military wives," was right on regarding the importance of military wives and the value of their contributions to national security. There is, however, another aspect to this story that must be told.

National statistics show that 55 to 60 percent of married military members will no longer be married to their current spouses when those military members reach retirement age after 20 years of creditable service. Divorce in the military became what might properly be called a "growth industry" after Congress, in 1982, enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA). This law provides that ex-spouses may be awarded up to 65 percent of their military mates' retirement pay for life, regardless of how long they were married and whether or not the ex-spouses remarry.

If the marriage lasted at least 10 years, the ex-spouses may be paid a share of their military mates' retirement pay directly by the government. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which makes these payments, has more than 70,000 names on its payroll, and the list is growing at the rate of about 500 per month. DFAS payments to ex-spouses amount to more than $40 million per month. Estimates are that another 25,000 to 30,000 ex-spouses are being paid out of pocket by their former military mates. There are no rules against multiple remarriages, and it is possible to receive multiple USFSPA payments. Such cases exist.

The military member must have at least 20 years of service before becoming eligible to receive retirement pay. Even then, certain obligations to the federal government remain, such as possible recall to active duty and lifetime compliance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Ex-spouses, who draw from the same pay envelope, are vested in their mates' retirement pay immediately upon marriage, and no conditions are attached to their receipt of it. The obligations of military spouses to the nation and to their spouses cease upon divorce. On the other hand, military retirees have obligations to the government and to their ex-spouses for life.

As you stated in your March 31 special report, a military wife makes a unique and valuable contribution to national security. However, these contributions are of a vastly different nature from those of military members. Certainly, it would be absurd to contend that the contributions to the nation of U.S. Special Forces fighting in Afghanistan or pilots flying night attack missions are on the same footing with the contributions of their spouses in the United States, as valuable as those contributions might be.

Retirement pay originally was envisaged as a part of a military compensation system intended to serve as an inducement for enlistment and re-enlistment, encouraging orderly promotion and a youthful military. By permitting an unequal split of retirement pay for life or even a split proportionate to the amount of time a military member is married during military service the USFSPA has diminished the reward of retirement pay to military members going in harm's way. If the USFSPA is fair and equitable to both sides of a military marriage, as is claimed frequently on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon, it is reasonable to ask why the Department of Defense doesn't brief its military personnel on the existence and potential impact of the USFSPA. This omission has resulted in the blindsiding of most military members who have encountered the law.

The USFSPA was crafted primarily for the benefit of female civilians married to male commissioned officers, but what if the "military wife" is a male? Can his contributions to national security while in civilian clothes compare to the contributions he could make if he were in uniform? The USFSPA provides no answers to such questions, nor did your special report.

The USFSPA has been on the books for almost 20 years. During that time, several important societal changes have taken place, such as the growing percentage of military wives in the civilian work force, as your special report mentioned. Throughout that period, military wives have enjoyed the protections of the USFSPA as well as all the divorce-settlement provisions available to all other married women in the United States. No one in 1982 foresaw the growth in the number and status of women in today's military. Neither could they have known that a law designed to help women would hurt many of them.

A growing divorce rate is a fact of life in the Defense Department. Congress and the Pentagon should restore fairness and equity to the military divorce process. Legislation for this purpose the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Equity Act of 2001 has been introduced in the 107th Congress. It is time to address the other side of the story.


FRANK W. AULT

Executive director

American Retirees Association

Redlands, Calif.

Pro-abortion = anti-baby an 'insulting argument'

I read with interest John McCaslin's "Reproductive Right" item in the April 2 Inside the Beltway column, regarding the pregnancy of Saturday Night Live's Ana Gasteyer. Miss Gasteyer, who Mr. McCaslin says is the first comedian cast member to be pregnant while on the show, is apparently very happy about having her baby and is pleased to have the support of the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels. According to Miss Gasteyer, Mr. Michaels, a father of three, thinks babies are "great" and that they positively changed his life.

Why not leave it at that? Mr. McCaslin went on to write, "Funny, but we don't recall the SNL comedian gushing about how great babies are and how they totally change people's lives for the better when she was in Washington a few days ago as the celebrity attraction for the 85th anniversary celebration of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America."

Once again, the pro-choice position has been tied erroneously to an "anti-baby" outlook. There are plenty of pro-choice women and men who raised, are raising or hope to raise children. The pro-choice/pro-life debate will continue as long as humans are around, but the linking of pro-choice positions with "anti-baby" attitudes must stop. It is a weak argument, not to mention an insulting one.


EILEEN SULLIVAN

Washington

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