MOAA President talks military spending

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Dana Atkins said they are consistent advocates of helping soldiers get higher pay.

The President and CEO of one of the largest veteran service organizations in the country made a stop in Killeen to discuss issues affecting Central Texas veterans.

The new federal budget aims to increase defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. In his discussion with the group from the Central Texas Military Officers Association of America, Retired Lieutenant General Dana Atkins said Congress is trying to find a way to spend all that money soon.

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But some military leaders are asking if they can delay some of that spending until they make clear decisions on where to spend those funds, Atkins said.

Atkins explains these kinds of decisions are being made in the midst of a conflict lasting close to two decades now.

"So the equipment is worn out. And, oh by the way, the soldier is worn out too. So, what can we do to basically, it's kind of like if you're driving a 20-year-old car like this, and you've been driving it every day to work like this, it's probably ready to have a new car," the Lieutenant General said.

He said a larger force structure is needed. He told the audience many people do join the military for the benefits.

Atkins said they were able to help champion an increase of more than two percent in compensation in the next national defense budget.

MOAA is strongly supporting the widow's tax, which impacts about 67,000 spouses. Atkins said, currently, widows have to follow a law where they cannot take payments from both the SBP, Survivor Benefit Plan, and what is called dependency compensation.

With thousands of Fort Hood soldiers deployed across five continents at any one time, Atkins offered a message to the families waiting for loved ones to return.

"A big thank you with a capital T. Sometimes I look at my wife and we've been married for 38 years," he said.

He went on to say he cannot imagine what the young families are going through now since some have been through two decades of continuous conflict.