Readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update Column Sound Off
I am an old guy who retired after 24 years, enlisted and officer, in the Navy. That was 31 years ago. But the current issues surfacing sort of remind me of what troops were thinking back then.
When I left the Navy, females were the issue. I never served on a ship with them so I have no first-hand experience. I do remember that the Navy spent a lot of money creating separate but equal living quarters. Some of us said there would be problems with the mix of males and females in the workplace, particularly if it came to fighting a war.
More recently, the big guys decided it would be nice and even more equitable if gays were allowed to serve right alongside war fighters. Some of us thought it would not work.
Now we have all kinds of sexual issues, even to the point of rape, or at least lots of touching of the wrong places, males versus female. Even further, we have "harassment" of gay persons.
Hmmm. It seems like we asked for it. But instead we say there is something wrong with the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. I think we are placing the blame in the wrong place.
I have no idea how to fix it.
PREBEN EBBESEN Pensacola, Fla.
EX-SPOUSE PAY & MEDICAL
My sister divorced her husband, a military retiree, and gets almost $1,300 tax free a month. No children at home. She also get free medical. We taxpayers are paying for her support.
If she marries, or if her ex-husband dies, does she still get this money? Is this money coming out of her ex-husband's retirement?
This is unbelievable if the rest of us are paying for this.
JACQUE K. Via email
Your former brother-in-law's retired pay likely was divided as property in their divorce settlement, as allowed under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. One of them likely is paying taxes on it.
Your sister could continue to receive her share of his retired pay regardless of whether she married again, at least under the USFSPA. But the divorce agreement could say something different.
Her right to a share of retired pay would end upon her ex-husband's death. As part of the divorce settlement he might have purchased for her ex-spouse coverage under the military's Survivor Benefit Plan. A member may elect "former spouse" SBP provided the divorce occurred after the service member became eligible for retired pay. Also, a former spouse may initiate SBP coverage on her own, provided election is made within one year of a court order requiring SBP coverage.
Ex-spouse military medical coverage, with its usual co-payments, is available if three conditions were met: the marriage lasted at least 20 years; the member served at least 20 years' service creditable to qualify for retired pay, and the marriage overlapped with service time by 20 years or more.
Medical coverage only is provided if the former spouse does not have an employer sponsored health plan. Coverage would end upon remarriage and then could not be restored even if her remarriage ends in death or divorce. – Tom Philpott
LOST IN COURT
About 12 or 13 years ago, Air Force Colonel George "Bud" Day sued the government for all of us who were in service before 1956, those who were assured free medical care if we made a career of the armed services.
It seems, in the interim, someone changed it so that anyone who made a career of the armed services was included. I was one who helped to finance the lawsuit. My question is what happened to change it?
And why is it never mentioned when there's talk about increasing TRICARE for Life co-pays.
GORMAN MITCHELL Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic (Hydraulic) USN-Ret.
Your questions presume Colonel Day won that long-fought lawsuit. He did not. But by the time a final decision was rendered, the lawsuit had been a key factor that drove Congress to enact TRICARE for Life in 2001 -- and not for the most elderly retirees represented in the lawsuit but for all beneficiaries 65 and older.
The ruling in Schism and Reinlie v. U.S., was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C. on Nov. 18, 2002. It acknowledged "moral claims" by an older generation of retirees to free lifetime health care. But it said no law or service regulation had ever authorized promises of free, unconditional medical care. Indeed, starting in 1956, law and regulation stated that military facilities would provide health care to retirees and their families only on a "space available" basis.
In June 2003, the Supreme Court let that the appeals court ruling stand by declining to review the Schism decision. – T.P.
PROMISES STILL CAN'T BE IGNORED
I understand that costs to Department of Defense are significant but we were promised and then guaranteed free medical care for life. Instead we are being charged co-pays when we see a doctor and changed again for any pharmacy drugs we need. As a retiree, I cannot afford any additional payments as proposed by the Obama administration. I would hate to have to give up my health care just to satisfy the administration and Congress.
DONALD CAPLAN Bel Air, Md.
So let me get this straight: The government is still making promises it can't or won't keep?
I joined the military to serve my country. When I did I was told I would get free medical for life if I stayed to retire. Yet due to budget cutbacks, the government doesn't consider grandfathering us from changes. All they care about is money, ignoring promises that were made.
Now, five years after I retired and I was promised TRICARE Prime, which I pay for but shouldn't have to, I am being told Prime will not be offered to me after September and I must downgrade to TRICARE standard, because of where I live.
Don't tell me Standard is a great program and that people using it love it. I am not using it because I don't want it. I want Prime, the managed care option. I was promised Prime, have been using Prime and rather than make it better for me the government can only make worse?
The bottom line is we veterans were made promises that the government isn't keeping.
EARL COUCH USMC-Ret. Via email
My "free" medical care for life, promised throughout my career, started costing me money the day after I retired. Now that I am over 65 and on Medicare, it costs me (and my spouse) $2,400 a year plus pharmacy costs.
A person retiring today at my pay grade and years of service makes about $6,500 more per year than I do. Ramp my pay up to that level and eliminate the TRICARE fees. That is what I was promised.
The politicians and the generals, in particular, should be ashamed!
GEORGE C. HILL Chief Warrant Officer 3, USN-Ret. Via email