The 2016 Manual for Courts-Martial (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Van Syoc)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A new legal opinion from the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals says court-martialing military retirees is unconstitutional — and the reason concerns the issue of retirement pay.

Chief Judge Navy Capt. James Crisfield delivered the opinion last week, joined by Senior Judges Navy Capt. Marcus Fulton and Marine Col. Jonathan Hitesman. The decision was made as a result of an appeal from retired Chief Petty Officer Stephen Begani, who was court-martialed after leaving the Navy on charges of attempted sexual abuse of a child.

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U.S. Marine Corps Veterans salute during the 5th Marines Vietnam War Memorial unveiling ceremony in the Camp San Mateo Memorial Garden at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 28, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel)

California's high cost of living makes it a difficult place for retired military service members to settle down, according to an annual report by financial services website WalletHub.

California — home to the largest number of active-duty troops in the nation — fares poorly in the survey when it comes to affordable housing, homelessness and the proportion of of businesses in the state that are owned by veterans.

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Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/U.S. Marine Corps

Alright, so you’re thinking about your long-term financial security. Maybe you’re tired of making the rounds like a MARPAT-clad Oliver Twist, cover in hand, begging for more, please, so you can afford your monthly phone bill and streaming service payment.

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NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

I’m about to suggest something that would’ve been unthinkable to me as an E-3: Put yourself in the admiral’s shoes.

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Marines/Cpl. Todd F. Michalek

The day you join the military is the day you stop being an individual. In the military, “being an individual” is such a bad thing that it’s actually an insult, especially in recruit training. Whether you’re in the military for four years or 40, the work you do becomes your identity. Pilot, grunt, clerk; it’s not just your job description: It’s who you are. If you’d asked me to describe myself while I was in the military, the first words I’d have said were “Marine” and “pilot.”

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U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore

The military retirement system has recently been revamped in a big way. Instead of giving retirees the traditional 50% of base pay after 20 years of service, the new plan is a more complicated “blended system” — a mixture of a defined-benefit pension starting at 40% pay for 20 years' service, plus a 401K-style Thrift Savings Plan with matching contributions that individuals can take with them even if they leave the service early. That’s a big step forward, especially for the 83% of enlisted servicemembers who don’t stay long enough to earn the traditional 20-year pension.

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