Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Does anyone know the answer to this...

I was watching C-Span the other night. I tuned in in the middle of a Congressional Hearing about benefits for wounded veterans.

The point of the hearing seemed to be that we have been slightly overpaying some wounded veterans because of bookkeeping errors and have been requesting that the wounded veterans pay us back. My guess is that we have been a little over aggressive at this, and that even small amounts are a big deal to someone disabled. My reaction, which also seemed to be the chairman's of the committee, was to back off and let them keep the money.

One very large exhibit that was presented to the committee was an example of the long numerical computer entry that determines how much a veteran gets. It had the usual info that you would expect: ID, rank, branch of service. Was struck me, however, was that the two dates in the data entry -- I assume for enlistment date and date of discharge -- were entered using the Julian calendar.

Why would the military use a calendar system that the rest of us abandoned in 1582 -- are we expecting to be attacked by the Holy Roman Empire?

Does anyone know why?


Bruce said...

Just another way to screw the veterans..
yet oddly, the reirement system is costing a fortune -- it must be that some people just know how to work the system and some don't -- I assume the 20 years/50% of base pay rule is still in effect -- that produces a very modest annuity for an enlisted person but a bunch of cash for an officer -- I may have these figures wrong but the enlisted man gets about $900 a month plus about the same in social secutity, an officer might get $400,000 a year [Dolt, below, indicated that this figure is not right, which is true -- military pay scales can be founf HERE ] (those are the numbers that I remember, if they are wrong someone let me know<== someone did) -- military pensions are paid out of the general budget, there is no trust fund for military pensions, unfunded pensions are probably approaching $1 Trillion, that does not leave a lot of room to add more benefits -- average retirement age is about 42 or 43

-- I do know that the military has been studying healthcare costs for retirees, which come out of the military not the general budget -- they must be approaching 10% of the regular military budget by now, making if hard to increase benefits without cutting training or weapons programs

-- like all entitlement programs, veteran's benefits are difficult to change

Anonymous said...

Allows you to track year and date without worry for month. Julian calendar format would be yyyy/ddd (1-365). Smaller area to store date in and there are numerous conversion routines to determine the month, etc...

Not sure this answers the WHY, but the military has been doing this for some time...

I can add this: The problem with conventional civil calendar dates is that to count the total number of days or hours that has elapsed between two observations (enlistment-discharge) requires that you keep track of how many days there are in each intervening month, accounting for leap years, etc. To circumvent these convoluted calculations, scientists have adopted an absolute day count system based on the Julian calendar.

The Julian Day number (JD) is the count of the number days that have elapsed since Greenwich Mean Noon on 1 January -4712 (4713 BC) in the Julian Proleptic Calendar.

Confused -- don't worry -- we have the web -- here is a calculator to convert regular (Gregorian) dates in Julian Day Counts.

Dolt said...

I spent nine years as an officer in the Navy and there isn't anyone who earns $400K a year - even 4-star admirals/generals! I'd still be in if we made that much money! Also, for the amount of deployments and 18-hour days, holidays and weekends you put in - not to mention that your life is at risk every day - I'd say it's well earned. There are a lot of "old" 42 yr olds who retire from the military. It does that to you. You do get 50% of your base pay after 20 years.

Most officers retire as an O-5 (Commander/Lt. Colonel). The current base pay for an O-5 with 20 yrs is approx. $7000/month, which would equate to about $3500/month retirement.

An enlisted E-7 (Chief Petty Officer) w/20 yrs has a base pay of approx. $3600 which equates to about $1800/month retirement.

I won't say the pay system is completely fair - I have 3 older brothers who all are enlisted or retire enlisted. However, when the "crap" hit the fan and decisions had to be made, it's the officers who are held accountable - or should be. That could explain some of the pay differences. I just remember my aircrew looking at me when something was messed up and someone had to go into the "big guys" office and put his neck out. No one went in with me - I'll take the extra pay for that added burden.

Just my two cents worth.
Dolt -- thanks -- I put a correction in my comment -- the total cash stream for an officer who retires after 20 years and lives a long time thereafter appears to be about $800,000 -- that is where I mistakenly got the $400,00 figure --

-- the basic pension calculation for both enlisted and officers is surprisingly low, although there are things that can adjust it upwards --

-- compensation is supposed to be based on the importance of an occupation to the survival of a society, we are probably way off the mark with military pay based on that premise --

-- you appear to be from a very military family -- I hope you will visit on Memorial Day when I put up my favorite picture

Jim said...

I received the following message from Bill Jefferys, the guy who created the Julian Day Counts Calculator linked in a previous comment. Jim

The 'Julian' in 'Julian Calendar' and 'Julian Day Number' have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Neither do the calendar and the day number.

The Julian Calendar was introduced by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar about 46 BCE. It is of course eponymously named for Julius Caesar.

The Julian Day Number was introduced by Joseph Justice Scaliger in 1583, and was (confusingly) named by him for his father Julius Caesar Scaliger. But the only connection between the calendar and the day number is the name of J. J. Scaliger's father.

I am guessing that the source you've referenced has confused the two. It would make sense for someone to enter days of service using the Gregorian calendar dates and (using a complicated algorithm such as the one perhaps used in the testimony you describe) convert to Julian Day Number. Then subtraction gives the total number of days of service, thus crediting each veteran with the exact amount of service he deserves.

I would be astonished if anyone is being either short-changed or over-compensated because of *this*. There of course could be other reasons for such unfairness, but it would not be due to such a calculation (if properly performed).

I would guess that the algorithms being employed by the Defense Department or VA have been vetted by the USG authority in such matters---the U. S. Naval Observatory. I certainly hope so.

Having not seen the show you did, that's the best I can guess.

Thanks for referencing my website!


Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the hearings -- the part that I saw was much concerned with the fact that the "flat database" was created decades ago and lacks a GUI (a Windows-like interface). I tried to find a repeat on C-Span but could not find a match.

Jim said...

this appears to be a good explanation of military pay and benefits:

Anonymous said...

Interesting website with a lot of resources and detailed explanations.