Readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update column sound off on their views on raising TRICARE fees.
VIEWS ON RAISING TRICARE FEES VARY BY WHERE YOU SIT
There has to be a better way to fix the fiscal problems this country faces other than sequestration. The impact on our military and veterans is simply not justified.
We ask so much of them and then we cut their funds and try to cut their health insurance and retirement. The whole idea is just preposterous.
There are many other avenues that should have been considered instead of the political posturing from both parties. We still have the ability to be the best in the world. We have opportunities for all.
I am requesting that amendments be made to planned military pay and benefit adjustments. We are here and we are free due to their sacrifices.
KENNETH R HAYDON Sergeant First Class, USA-Ret. Via email
I read your article about House action to block the pay cap and TRICARE cost increases and wanted to make some observations.
It's a rare event when anyone even mentions these topics in the political discourse today, and I'm glad you did.
Some background: I'm a Vietnam veteran having served in the medical command in Chu Lai and Pleiku, Vietnam, 1971-1972. I did not retire from the military and am not eligible for TRICARE benefits. Over my long employment with Chevron, I met many helicopter pilots who were also Vietnam veterans. Quite a number stayed on in the Air National Guard in various states and accumulated retirement benefits, which included TRICARE.
When I asked whether they would keep Chevron's medical plan or opt for TRICARE, they thought I was nuts. It was related to me that the annual cost for TRICARE was $460, which covered dependents. The present cost of my Chevron medical plan is more than $10,200 a year.
Since then, I have also retired and began to investigate what their plan really costs. I do understand the rationale of people who use TRICARE that they "earned" it, even if some of them had only the experience of attending monthly drills and their two weeks in the summer. I, on the other hand, spent my time in service in a hostile fire zone yet can't participate in TRICARE. Am I whining? Not at all. Here's my point...
I've read that military health care costs more than $53 billion a year, a fact you failed to mention. I can only conclude you're okay with it being characterized as an entitlement for retired military personnel. My thought was that maybe $460 a year is way too low and maybe $10,200 is way too high and that everyone could do something like split the difference.
My experience, although not necessarily germane, is that the people who told me they were entitled to TRICARE are the same people who decry non-military people getting something similar, even if it costs more.
I have a cousin whose father was a career Army officer. He died but his wife continues to use TRICARE. They live near a large Army base. So in their town are TRICARE beneficiaries, Medicare beneficiaries and then the rest of the population. It's as if the government has walled off certain people for benefits and others for none.
It's an issue pretty much under the "deficit hawks' " radar but rising military health costs are a drain on the Treasury that needs to be addressed.
MIKE F. Via email
I really think leaders of this country need to think things over. I just got on TRICARE and drug co-payments went up by $5, to $17. Now the proposal is to go sky high. I guess my years of service don't mean anything.
Why should a young person go in if at the end of their service years they have the rug pulled out from under him or her? I spent 21 years in the service. Three were in the regular Army and half was in ‘Nam. The other years were in the National Guard. I spent a lot of time away from home and late night training. And they say I make too much to use VA health care. I even put in a request for hearing aids and was turned down.
I have had bullets, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades fired at me and endured all the stuff that goes with doing my service job. Finally I am able at least to get TRICARE and I end up having to pay more. I can't see that. Plus they want to mess with Medicare and Social Security.
I'm a bit confused. Under President Obama's budget proposal, working age retirees would have to get ready for fee increases that, as an end result, have a target of 4 percent of retiree annual income. For a retiree receiving $24,000 per year, that amounts to $960 per year.
Under that formula, TRICARE Prime coverage for a retired flag officer receiving $100,000 per year would be $4,000 per year, yet the proposed cap is $1,840? Anybody with common military sense knows that a retired flag officer receives many thousands more in annual retired pay.
This is another example writing law and setting policy to take care of their own. There exists this illusion the average military retiree is raking in a bundle of money every month in retired pay and benefits. Yet most retirees are practically all used up and fare poorly in the private sector job market after their military service. We rarely are offered those lucrative consulting jobs that add thousands upon thousands of dollars to our income for doing little more than offering advice to whomever asks for it.
There is no integrity or honor left in our leaders. It's all about balancing the budget on the backs of those who earned what they have, while protecting or exempting themselves from the rules, and minimizing deductions from their paychecks.
TIM BROWNING Via email
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, should not have these jobs because they don't care about people who served this country. The military has turned against the retirees and disabled vets.
We earned these benefits by giving up a lot. Now that we are no longer active duty, they are slowly taking away everything promised.
They already have doubled our co-pays the last two years. The increases now proposed are not modest. Why don't our leaders lead by example and cut their own benefits dramatically?
A lot of the vets have chronic illness because they served the military. I am one of them. I was told when I was discharged from the Air Force that I would die within 10 years. I gave up everything for my country. The way I feel I'm being repaid is by seeing my benefits taken away to make it harder for me to survive.
Thank the Good Lord for Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C) because he cares about the retirees. As he pointed out, there were health care budget surpluses the last couple of years totaling more than $1 billion. So there is no need for higher TRICARE co-pays.
DoD Comptroller Robert Hale is full of crap to state soldiers at Fort Hood are unable to train for lack of funds, because people who do the training are getting paid regardless. And with the technology we have today, we don't need a large Army.
FRANKLIN D ROGERS JR Via email
I'd like you to know how much the military community appreciates your column. It's the only way some people stay abreast of what's going on.
EARLENE SMITH Via email