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November 8, 2011

Md. troops in Iraq tell O'Malley of concern for benefits

Maryland National Guard members stationed in Iraq told Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday that they were concerned about veterans’ retirement benefits in the current climate of fiscal austerity.

Defense is one of several areas that has come under scrutiny as Washington looks to balance its books. President Barack Obama has directed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to cut $450 billion from the Pentagon budget. The so-called Supercommittee, the panel of lawmakers charged with developing plans to reduce the deficit, could come up with additional reductions. And a failure by its members to reach an agreement would trigger deep cuts automatically.

Members of the Maryland guard’s 29th Combat Aviation Brigade spoke with O’Malley from Taji, Iraq, via Skype. When O’Malley asked if there was anything he could do for them, Col. David W. Carey spoke of the retirement benefits.

“Some of what’s being talked about as we pare down the budget … is constantly there is an article in there about adjusting their retirement system,” said Carey, commander of the brigade, which is based at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeeen Proving Ground.

He pointed to the soldiers who joined him on the call: Master Sgt. Iris Cruz of Harford County, in the service for 21 years; Chief Warrant Officer Gregory R. Turner of Elkton, in for 12 years; and Specialist Delvan Namar Anderson of Edgewood, in for three. He said they and others signed on with an understanding of the benefits they would receive after completing their service.

“It’s my hope that as a government we don’t go down and modify that retirement system midstream,” he said.

O’Malley told Carey he shared his concern.

“My sense is in the general public that people are starting to ask deeper and better questions in the face of this sort of strange, cut, cut, cut, cut, slash-and-burn, slash-and-burn sort of approach to the things that we can only do together, like supporting our armed forces,” he said. “And so I’d like to believe that as the public is starting to ask deeper questions, so, too, will their representatives.”

O’Malley has no formal role in federal spending, but said he had met “a few times” with members of the Supercommittee.

“With other governors, we’ve tried to make very clear that doing a bad deal, with huge cuts to priorities like the one you underscored for veterans retirement benefits and our armed forces, doing a bad deal would be worse than not doing any deal at all. …

Continue reading "Md. troops in Iraq tell O'Malley of concern for benefits" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:20 PM | | Comments (1)
        

October 31, 2011

Dutch, Cardin seeking break for military families

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin are scheduled to announce legislation Monday that would allow the families of wounded troops to receive free or reduced-rate hotel accomodations while visiting their recovering loved ones.

The legislation would expand the “Hero Miles” program created by Ruppersberger in 2003, through which military families may use miles donated by individual airline passengers for free airfare to visit troops recovering at military or Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Recovering troops who are able to travel also may use the miles.

The Fisher House Foundation, which administers Hero Miles, will announce Monday that it has issued the 25,000th ticket of the program, according to a spokeswoman for Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat.

The new legislation to be introduced in the House and Senate would establish a program through which Americans could donate hotel reward points to military families visiting wounded troops recovering around the world.

Ruppersberger and Cardin both have international responsibilities among their committee assignments: Ruppersberger is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Cardin is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Continue reading "Dutch, Cardin seeking break for military families" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (2)
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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