Part 1 of 3: DoD Plan for Covering Military Retiree Health Care, the Obama plan?

TRICARE fees for retirees are once again under attack. Tom Philpott of reports Defense Sec. Gates believes “Retiree TRICARE Fees Should Rise.”,15240,189145,00.html? Sec. Gates is quoted as saying TRICARE fees have not increased since 1995, and “the department is to spend $47 billion in health care in 2010, costs that are ‘eating the Department alive'”.

Sec. Gates and the Department of Defense are reported to have learned their lesson from the attempts to raise TRICARE fees under the Bush administration. See Part 2 and 3 of this Blog is my analysis of the previous administration plans to raise TRICARE fees in 2007.

Mr. Philpott reports a Louisiana Air National Guard Lt. Colonel at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama on April 15, 2009, stated “[i]t occurs to me that TRICARE takes advantage of a community that is unwilling and unused to complain[ing].” This is absolutely the case.

One of the great things about being in the military is the camaraderie and ability for a military unit to pull together to get the impossible done. You work as a team. Complaining is OK, but opposing orders is not, thus the Lt. Colonel is correct DoD is attacking the easiest means to get more money for current operations. The means to get more money for DoD – – tell retirees they must pay more and claim “the civilian health care costs more.”

Because of the prohibition against military members actively being involved in politics while in uniform, military members do not organize to fight a bureaucratic decision. One fact is all military members are veterans. A second fact is a smaller percentage of military members become military retirees. The only way a military retiree is going to be able to protect their rights earned through 20+ years of military service is to become organized and oppose TRICARE fee increases.

An obvious question is when Congress and the President passed the economic stimulus package in February why was the veteran and military retiree’ earned benefits not funded? As part 2 and 3 of DoD Plan for Covering Military Retiree Health Care Challenged by GAO Report points out the Department of Defense and military retirees’ positions on TRICARE are diametrically opposed.

A possible solution to protect military retirees’ earned benefits is military retirees must organize and oppose any TRICARE fee increases convincing Congress to protect retirees by stopping TRICARE fee increases. Military members and military retirees must write their congressional representatives and convince these members to oppose such fee increases. Even the veteran service organizations are not uniform in this approach according to the article by Mr. Philpott. Politicians respond to overwhelming opposition by their constituents.

One of Sec. Gates arguments is that TRICARE fees have not increased since 1995. The problem with this argument is that service in the military precludes a young man or woman from (1) pursuing a civilian career that offers a completely different economic package, (2) obtaining reasonable health care insurance at a young age, and military service (3) exposes the military member to dangers and hazards not allowable in the civilian world, (4) and depending on the injuries or disabilities received in the military health care insurance may be unattainable upon retirement because of the pre-existing condition (service connected disability) or prohibitive cost for the insurance. Finally, equity and fairness must consider promises of military health care when the military recruit was enlisting.

Maybe it is just me, but after “bailing out Banks and many other entities” in the United States in 2008 and 2009 you would think the United States would protect the veterans and military retirees who have answered the call to serve this great nation. Maybe all those speeches by the politicians calling for national service should look to the veterans and military members and understand they have answered the call to national service already. This really shows the lack of respect and understanding to the military members, their families and those of the military retirees and their families. Speeches are nice, but actions prove the intent of the politicians.

TRICARE should not be based upon comparisons to civilian health-care systems. The conditions and economic factors are not comparable between military service and civilian employment. Current military members and military retirees should oppose any TRICARE fee increases, and request Congress remove funding for TRICARE from the Department of Defense and fully fund TRICARE through appropriations not through taxing the veterans.

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