Most West Virginians would agree that anyone who serves in the military deserves high praise and at least a few breaks from state government, we suspect. Down through the years Mountain State residents have approved cash bonuses to be paid to veterans of some wars.
Unfortunately, lines have to be drawn somewhere. We simply can't afford to reward veterans as handsomely as we would prefer. The vets understand that. Most probably just want to be treated with some respect - and with uniformity regarding public benefits.
That ought to be the guide for state officials attempting to work out the touchy issue of giving public employees credit toward pensions for time served in the military.
Credit of as much as five years toward time needed to retire with a public employee's pension can be granted for some veterans, but not all. That has caused controversy, with some veterans of conflicts such as that in Afghanistan protesting they deserve the same credit as those who served in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf War.
All this could be resolved by legislative action specifying what classes of veterans are eligible for how much credit. But, though the issue has come up in the Legislature during recent years, no action has been taken. That leaves officials in the various public employee retirement programs stuck with blame by some veterans.
Obviously, a standard system for all veterans, regardless of the type of public service they are involved in, should be adopted. Again, it needs to be fair, but with the recognition West Virginians cannot afford all they would like to provide. Some estimates of the cost of providing public employee pension credit to all veterans put the cost at nearly $400 million.
That puts Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and legislators in a tough position. They should tackle the problem, however, and come up with a proposal to resolve it.