HR Strange But True!
July 23, 2004

We all know that HR is never dull, but sometimes it can get downright strange...

You'll never top this benefit

In a recent interview, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld brushed aside talk of reinstating the draft, saying the military can attract enough volunteers by offering the right perks: "We're perfectly capable of increasing the incentives and the inducements to attract people into the armed services."

But was he thinking of breast enhancements? We're not saying the secretary has a dirty mind. It's just that, according to The New Yorker magazine, plastic surgery has been added to the benefits available to everyone in uniform.

The magazine reports that personnel in all four branches of the military, along with members of their immediate families, can get face-lifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements, liposuction, or any other kind of elective cosmetic alteration. And it's all at taxpayer expense-except when it comes to breast implants, which patients must supply on their own.)

Military personnel who want surgery must get approval from their commanding officer for the time off. (There's a recovery period of at least 10 days for most procedures, according to The New Yorker, which adds that the time off doesn't come out of a soldier's vacation period-it's paid medical leave.

There's not even a limit to the number of operations personnel can receive. But Dr. Bob Lyons, the chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, cautioned: "We don't do extreme makeovers in the military."

Why such generosity toward soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, who normally receive abysmal pay for their sacrifices? An Army spokeswoman had a stark, simple answer: "The surgeons have to have someone to practice on." Their primary job, after all, is to reconstruct the wounded.

"The benefit of offering elective cosmetic surgery to soldiers is more for the surgeon than for the patient," Lyons said.

Source: The New Yorker

OK, so you can't afford plastic surgery for your employees. But other innovations occur all the time in benefits. Keep up on what's working-and what's not-in BLR's monthly newsletter, Best Practices in Compensation & Benefits.

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