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Some Retirees Accepting of Higher Fees, Many Not

Readers of Tom Philpott’s Military Update Column Sound Off on TRICARE increases.

I thought the piece on TRICARE fee increases was pretty well balanced. Yes, I was told as an Army private in 1976 that if I retired at 20 years plus I would get free, full medical coverage for life.  I understand it wasn't in writing.

I believe that the service fully intended to honor that open-ended commitment no matter what the future would bring.  And the Army has more than lived up to its promise by taking good care of me.

Times change, rules change and costs of medical care escalate.  As a retired Army medic, nurse and then a physician’s assistant living in Washington State, I have seen costs of civilian health care rise.  And I have seen the results of substandard insurance coverage borne by good civilian folks who didn't have TRICARE.

I have the best insurance almost anyone could ask for.  I don't currently work in military medicine but I get care at Madigan Army Medical Center when I need it.  I have gotten my money’s worth out of TRICARE and the military medical system. The benefits have been phenomenal.

I do not fault TRICARE for the meager charges I have had to pay for quality health care. I think part of the solution is for those who get more retirement pay to pay more for TRICARE.  More joint service medical operations are also in order and that is already happening system-wide. 

We all do our part to balance the budget.  It smacks of greed for higher-ranking retirees to whine about their TRICARE costs going up a little.  The army was and is my family.  I am willing to help pay my share.

Medical care and costs are a complex issue.  I, for one, prefer to be part of the solution by paying a little more for TRICARE.  In my mind it is a very good investment for all.

STEVE HALE Via email

I served from 1987 to 2007.  I never had to pay for TRICARE while on active duty. Recruiters were still telling about free medical for life I served 20 years. That stopped sometime before 2001 when I became a recruiter.  Not sure exactly when between 1988-2001 it quit being promised.

I just get angry when people try to say we don't deserve it or we were not promised it.  To say it was not in “law” was the government's cop-out.

When benefits are considered, there is nothing in writing when you enlist.  Even with the GI Bill, you wait until half way through basic training to sign the paperwork.  But again, that doesn't mean anything.  They can change our benefits anytime.

My biggest beef is the idea of annually raising our TRICARE fees.  The government wants to price us out of our health care eventually.

KIM B. Via email

I served 30 honorable years on active duty.  I will be eligible for Social Security in a few months.  And the government now is telling me that, because I'm getting older, I have to pay more.  I really hate to bring this up but maybe it's time to hit active duty family members and reserves families.

My wife and I make sure that when we go to doctors we really are ill. When on active duty I remember how families would go to doctors and run up health costs for runny noses and or because they didn’t want their child to catch something they did not yet have.

And they're taking away my TRICARE Prime coverage because I don't live close enough to base?

All I can do is keep saying is foul, foul, foul. When will they stop taking and taking from those who have already given.

ROBERT HOWE Master Chief Aviation Ordnanceman, USN-Ret. Hot Springs, Ark.

Interesting.  We cut our military benefits but continue to send money to countries that dislike us so they can increase their military?

ELLEN M. Via email

I read with dismay the article on how the Department of Defense is stilling trying to increase prescription drug co-pays for all beneficiaries.  This would be most painful for retirees living on fixed incomes.

Most concerning was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s statement that raising TRICARE fees had the strong support of the Joint Chiefs and senior enlisted leaders because they understand they are needed “to sustain these benefits over the long term, without dramatically reducing the size or readiness of the force.”

These people have money to pay the higher co-pays.  Military retirees and Social Security recipients get meager increases, if any, each year while their medical and prescription costs keep going up.  We already pay over $100 a month for Plan B Medicare and now we are expected to pay higher prescription costs?  For those of us who served to protect this great country, this appears to be another slap in the face.  Drug fees already are set to rise by the same percentage as our annual cost of living adjustments. And DoD wants us to acquire maintenance drugs only through mail order.

 I understand the necessity to curtail costs, but after 2013 we will no longer be required to build infrastructure in Afghanistan for our troops, as they will be coming home.  Have politicians taken that into consideration?

I am tired of people not affected by these increases putting these cost burdens the people who can least afford them.

PAUL J. SERABIAN Chief Boatswain’s Mate, USN-Ret. Via email

This is disappointing.  We have a military health budget surplus for two years running and we need to use more of this money to fund operations and maintenance budget?

That's because the Pentagon is spending money on pet projects.  Luke Air Force Base is forecasted to lose two F-16 squadrons to Holloman AFB.  About $50 million has already been spent to make this move but it is not logical in an operational sense.  Less pilot training can occur at Holloman because of the White Sands Missile Range.  There are many logistical problems.  And Luke can handle this just fine, even with F-35's.  This is apparently a political favor to bring jobs to New Mexico.

It is sad that retirees have to see TRICARE fees raised, something they earned, to produce some political favors.

KEN CREASY Via email

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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