Readers Share Anger Over TRICARE Changes

Readers of Tom Philpott’s Military Update column sound off on ending TRICARE Prime coverage and the cost of leadership billets.

ANGER OVER ENDING TRICARE PRIME BEYOND 40 MILES

I would like to voice my complete disappointment in the treatment retired veterans are getting as a result of eliminating TRICARE Prime areas beyond 40 miles of military bases.

We have served our country honorably, in some horrifying situations, and, after being promised health care as a benefit of our service, we are being done a major injustice.  It is unethical to provide veterans with a care plan, TRICARE Standard, where we pay an annual deductible of $300.

And now, on a fixed income, we are supposed to be able to pay 25 percent of allowable charges for our medical care.  For retired military on a very fixed income this 25-percent surprise is not even in our solar system of realistic.

I am a proud American and very proud to have served my country for 24 years.  But today I have sorrow in my heart for the lack of integrity my government is showing me and thousands of my-brothers-in-arms.

I will do all I can to spread the word to all veterans -- active and retired -- to make their vote count in 2014, and especially 2016!

MIKE ROTH
Sergeant Major, USA-Ret.
Via email

I could almost understand if TRICARE Prime was being canceled for retirees living close enough to a base to use military treatment facilities instead of contracted doctors.  After all, if you live close enough to use an MTF, why should taxpayers pay more for you not to use base facilities?

But dropping this Prime coverage option for at least 171,000 veterans living away from bases, who served honorably and have paid their premiums for this service since discharge? That I don't get.  Punishing me for returning to my hometown?

We have an all-volunteer force. Does this demonstrate how this nation takes care of its veterans?

Raise our premiums if you need to. But don't cancel our Prime coverage.  I am luckier than most.  Although I have diabetes, high blood pressure and glaucoma, I also turn 65 in early 2015.  So my TRICARE coverage will be reduced for just about sixteen months before I am eligible for TRICARE for Life as a supplement to Medicare.

Still, this is stressful. I served over 22 years active Army and thought health care coverage was not an issue that would need attention.  As published reports indicate, the decision was made before the last election but Defense officials held off announcing it until after votes were cast.  Anybody else see a possible conspiracy here?

Although I am a personal friend of my elected representatives, I will work to flush every existing elected official out of Washington and bring in a fresh crew.

LEO BROWN
First Sergeant, USA-Ret.
Chattanooga, Tenn.

You need to leave us retires alone. We led and served well, earning our benefits!

Implement it on the new generation, not the old folks trying to survive.

MIKE BURNETTE
Senior Master Sergeant, USFA-Ret

GENERAL BILLETS: PART OF SOLUTION

Every time I read about the defense budget needing to be trimmed, I wonder why this basic idea isn't on the table.  It involves the sacred cow of general officer billets:

Compare the Army's Mission Essential Task List with general officer billets and cut the billet if it doesn't support a mission essential task.  The staff could be reassigned to essential tasks, the general officer encouraged to retire, and the slot deleted.

Every general officer should have each of his primary staff officers do an honest by-name assessment of what everyone does in each section under his control.  I mean troop-to-task, if you will.

If this were done, the Army probably could repurpose one third of its civilians and shed 40 to 50 percent of contractors.  I won't even mention waste and duplication in contracts.

If senior leadership determined the level of detail that is truly required at each level, we could decrease duplication of effort in echelons as well as in staff sections of command headquarters.

Sadly, I don't think an honest assessment by our senior staff officers will happen.

DEBRA L. KOLTVEIT 
Major, USA-Ret.

Letters may be edited for clarity or length.  Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to militaryforum@aol.com or visit www.militaryupdate.com

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About

Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott's Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is Military.com.

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Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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