The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.
The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.
The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.
Many in Congress are opposing the proposed changes, which would require the passage of new legislation before being put in place.
“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”
Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.
Military personnel from several of the armed services voiced their opposition to a means-tested tier system for Tricare, prompting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to issue a statement Feb. 21.
Dempsey said the military is making tough choices in cutting defense spending. In addition to the $487 billion over 10 years, the Pentagon is facing automatic cuts that could push the total reductions to $1 trillion.
“I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for Tricare in retirement,” Dempsey said. “You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.”
Under the new plan, the Pentagon would get the bulk of its savings by targeting under-65 and Medicare-eligible military retirees through a tiered increase in annual Tricare premiums that will be based on yearly retirement pay.
Significantly, the plan calls for increases between 30 percent to 78 percent in Tricare annual premiums for the first year. After that, the plan will impose five-year increases ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.
According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.
The new plan hits active duty personnel by increasing co-payments for pharmaceuticals and eliminating incentives for using generic drugs.
The changes are worrying some in the Pentagon who fear it will severely impact efforts to recruit and maintain a high-quality all-volunteer military force. Such benefits have been a key tool for recruiting qualified people and keeping them in uniform.
“Would you stay with a car insurance company that raised your premiums by 345 percent in five years? Probably not,” said the congressional aide. “Would anybody accept their taxes being raised 345 percent in five years? Probably not.”
A second congressional aide said the administration’s approach to the cuts shows a double standard that hurts the military.
“We all recognize that we are in a time of austerity,” this aide said. “But defense has made up to this point 50 percent of deficit reduction cuts that we agreed to, but is only 20 percent of the budget.”
The administration is asking troops to get by without the equipment and force levels needed for global missions. “And now they are going to them again and asking them to pay more for their health care when you’ve held the civilian workforce at DoD and across the federal government virtually harmless in all of these cuts. And it just doesn’t seem fair,” the second aide said.
Spokesmen for the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not respond to requests for comment on the Tricare increases.
The massive increases beginning next year appear timed to avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year, critics of the plan say.
Additionally, the critics said leaving civilian workers’ benefits unchanged while hitting the military reflect the administration’s effort to court labor unions, as government unions are the only segment of organized labor that has increased in recent years.
As part of the increased healthcare costs, the Pentagon also will impose an annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, a new program that all military retirees automatically must join at age 65. Currently, to enroll in Tricare for Life, retirees pay the equivalent of a monthly Medicare premium.
Under the proposed Pentagon plan, retirees will be hit with an additional annual enrollment fee on top of the monthly premium.
Congressional aides said that despite unanimous support among the military chiefs for the current healthcare changes, some senior officials in the Pentagon are opposing the reforms, in particular the tiered system of healthcare.
“It doesn’t matter what the benefit is, whether it’s commissary, PX, or healthcare, or whatever … under the rationale that if you raise your hand and sign up to serve, you earn a base set of benefits, and it should have nothing to do with your rank when you served, and how much you’re making when you retire,” the first aide said.
Military service organizations are opposing the healthcare changes and say the Pentagon is “means-testing” benefits for service personnel as if they were a social program, and not something earned with 20 or more years of military service.
Retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America, said the Military Coalition, 32 military service and veterans groups with an estimated 5 million members, is fighting the proposed healthcare increases, specifically the use of mean-testing for cost increases.
“We think it’s absolutely wrong,” Beasley told the Free Beacon. “This is a breach of faith” for both the active duty and retiree communities.
Congressional hearings are set for next month.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Feb. 23 called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the healthcare increases.
“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, head of the 2 million-member VFW. “Any proposal that negatively impacts any quality of life program must be defeated, and that’s why the VFW is asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to Congress.”
Senior Air Force leaders are expected to be asked about the health care cost increases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Congress must pass all the proposed changes into law, as last year’s defense authorization bill preemptively limited how much the Pentagon could increase some Tricare fees, while other fees already were limited in law.
Tricare for Life, Tricare Prime, and Tricare Standard increases must be approved, as well as some of the pharmacy fee increases, congressional aides said.
Current law limits Tricare fee increases to cost of living increases in retirement pay.
You know what is so absurd about this is it really makes zero logical sense. In the future will it come to that a the soldier is supposed to, when wounded on the battlefield or hurt in a training accident, hustle off to their state approve HMO or PPO? Are those going to be aboard Navy ship at sea like subs on an extended voyage? How about dependents on overseas bases on accompanied tours? Now TriCare is more for those who are retired or whose families aren't living near regular military medical facilities when the member is deployed but the latter especially shouldn't be bearing the burden of Dear Leader's excessive "entitlement" spending and idiotic "Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care" Act. Wonder when the military will understand he hates them even if they are part of one of his preferred subgroups or voted for him? The real idiots in the military are the ones that were bought with the 'gay inclusion" and "women in combat" bribes. Hey, more "hype and change".
"gay inclusion" bribes??? "women in combat" bribes:"??? What the h-ll are you talking about? Most young soldiers basically don't care if gays are open about it or not. They just care about the mission succeeding. If anyone, it is the women officers who are for direct ground combat. Bribes? Bribes???
Most military are Conservative and/or Republican and did not vote for Obama.
Military benefits have been slowly chipped away at for years, but now with Obama, he’s going gangbusters!
Active duty pay for their healthcare as well. It isn't free although it looks like that on the surface. The costs of benefits are deducted from their pay. The retirees & those having to go to civilian doctors aren't the only ones who will be affected.
I have to weigh in on this; what and where did you get your information to support this one John? I can prove that you are dead wrong on this. Further, it is time for men, especially, to wake up and come to the 21st Century of our military. Women are in positions where they are in combat or the repurcussions of it right now and left as sitting ducks; it is women that are flying those helicopters that are bring in and removing troops from the front line and they are doing an admirable job; that is women in combat in my book. The day of military women being religated to clerical or medical work and not in the front lines is long gone. Women are on patrols these days and able to handle the pressure. You see, John, in the present day military women have to do it harder and better than the men just to gain respect and acceptance and they are succeeding. They have had to prove they are stronger and more capable for the same reason, so that is not an argument any more that holds water. They are in positions where they are under mortar attack or whatever is being fired at them and dealing with it as well as any man. They are just as concerned about the safety of their fellow men as any man is and they are not slowing the men down one bit, that argument doesn't hold water either. My son, active Army, has had women on his patrols and had to trust his life to them as much as they have had to trust their lives to him and they left Iraq alive and well; he has done this 3 times now. And worse, women are more a target there than men due to the fact that Muslims have no respect for women whatsoever and will target the women first always. If they can handle that they can handle anything.
As for the military supporting Obama, where in the world is that coming from as well? The military find him to be their worst enemy right now in so many ways. The problem with military votes was that they were either lost, plane crashed with votes for one instance, or they were denied the time constraints to get their ballots in in time to vote; they were mailed late, etc. But those that did have their vote counted were not voting for Obama.
John, you did very well in your comments at the beginning and couldn't agree more, but you really messed up when you stated with "Wonder when the military will understand....." as this is where you really lost as the military fully knows how much he hates them and has known this longer than you or I have known it...and where do you see that they are one of his "preferred subgroups" as that is absolutely not the case at all. It is this group that he is proposing to make the most drastic cuts to budgets and spending; the one group that most needs to not see this happen. That doesn't seem like a "preferred subgroup" to me. I would respectfully suggest that you rethink this last part John, please, as it is so full of error.
Women have been in combat positions for a very long time. The main issue is how many of these women have the upper body strength of men to handle carrying 90# on their backs, carry a wounded soldier, etc., etc. Granted not all men can do that, but proportionately, a lot more men than woman are able to. They tried this in the UK and there were a great deal more women suffering injuries than men when both were doing the same thing. I am not at all against women in the infantry or armor, if they can handle all the job entails, but what this administration is trying to do is social engineering not whether women in certain combat positions makes for a better military or not. Pete & talked about this and, as I mentioned, the main problem is upper body strength. Democrats may be surprised to learn that not all people are created equal...physically that is. When Pete was in Desert Storm, he said there were absolutely no problems with working side by side with women.
I will be posting my Military Monday article(s) on women in combat early because I won't be able to tomorrow probably.
Sandy, while under missle attack on their flight line, my daughter and was lifting 75# parts over her head into position and while holding it in place bolting it into position on top of a ladder with no male help at all; doing this repeatedly during the day and night and wearing her full gear at the same time in readiness. She demonstrated the upper body strength to do this and more. While I understand what Pete is saying, what they are finding is that women are learning to compensate for this by developing stronger leg strength and using their legs more in the process where the upper body strength is necessary. Further, they are working out more to develop that strength in the physical training. I don't disagree here at all, I just think that as in all else, it can be and is being achieved.
I am glad to hear Pete's comments about working side-by-side with women. While I have never advocated women in combat, I have had to re-think and re-evaluate this and come to the conclusion that it can happen and is happening.
Let Pete know that the packs she had to carry were 100# and that she had to have her tool belt on with all of her tools which was about another 50# easily and in full gear. She said that it was not easy but she got used to it and was able to meet and exceed requirements. And so were the other 5 women in her flight and the other flight assigned to their area.
You know, the hardest part for her, and it is for men, too, is the ugly side of combat, death or serious and often life-threatening injuries. And to be a little more graphic, having to wash the blood out of the helicopters and planes after they have been removed from these; especially when they are the 18 and 19 year old Marines or Army soldiers that you were sharing conversation and a cup of coffee the day before. That is one that will never go away and changed her life in ways we don't talk about. It is the emotional side, but women deal with this and have dealt with this from the beginning of time. We patch, mend, soothe and comfort and we cry; nothing new, just painful whenever it happens.
Pete can empathize with your daughter on how difficult the horrors of war can be to handle. Even training stateside, has it's dangerous side. Pete has ridden helicopters more than once that have almost crashed. Once a soldier got pinned between two tanks & cut in half and one was run over by a tank at night as he slept. From Desert Storm, he had horrible stories to tell and ones from & about Officers who returned from several tours in Iraq & Afghanistan to attend C&GSC.
If your daughter can handle doing the job...good for her (& those other 5 women) & more power to her. Pete told me that even male soldiers have a lot of difficulty with their packs. He said that they'd flop down on the ground, put it on & then had to get help standing up.
What soldiers & sailors go through for us and then Obama wants to stick it to them. Nothing's too good for the military, is it? =P
Obama didn't join the military after college. Obviously he didn't want any part of being in the military probably because he is adverse to taking orders from anyone. Obama doesn't understand our military and during his 5 years as President was unable to address military officers by their uniforms and couldn't determine their rank.
Linda, your daughter is awesome. Big green stars coming her way!
Sandy, you and Pete would have to meet Jenn, she is a very feminine young woman, but there is nothing that she won't try as long as it is legal. She has always had felt that it is not right that men have to shoulder the military responsibilities for this Country alone; that where they can, women should be willing to step in and help get the job done. She has many friends that are Israeli women. She has talked to them and understands what they do for their Country and how, if you want to help bad enough, you can do it. That women can be a benefit in the military and since she was raised to be a help and not a hindrance, that is what she set out to do and accomplished. She graduated first in her flight in basic as well as her training for her specialty, aeronautical electrical engineering. She had to prove to the men in her flight that being a college grad she did not see herself as any different or better and they were hard on her. Where it normally takes 2 men to hoist this one piece of equipment up, into position above their heads and then reach up with one hand and secure it with bolts, the men would not help her, so she did it on her own from day one. Even their flight instructors did not help nor make the men do this. Why? Because they felt that if she was going to do it she had to prove she could do it; as I said, faster and better than they could do it. In the "Dessert" they had to come to work on the flight line on the planes in full gear with their packs as they had to be ready to "bug out at any time" or whatever they call it. Sometimes they were under severe enough fire that they had to wear the pack while lifting that 75# part and securing it.
Sandy, my heart goes out to Pete. What our men and women have seen and witnessed; don't even want to go there. Most people could not handle this at all. My brother had one of his crew members (young 19 year old) get sucked into the jet engine of a plane on a carrier deck and yes, non-combat, but just as horrific. Gosh we owe all of them so much, those alive and that lost their lives. We will never be able to repay them for their service and yes, Sandy, it boils my blood when anyone starts to dishonor them in any way.
That can be cutting benefits or any other thing such as cutting back funding for much needed equipment to perform their job and keep them reasonably safe.
What people also don't understand is that for so many of these people, they are working in areas and performing jobs that, if in private non-military sector, they would be earning salaries of $65,000 into triple digits; but in the military that is not anywher close to what they make. The things like medical care, housing allowance, etc. evened the playing field some, but still were not near enough to make up the difference. My brother left the Navy and was offered a job with Northrup Grumman doing the very same thing but flying all over the world to work on Navy planes and would have been making $95,000 a year to start; in the Navy he was making $24,800 a year. That is the illustration that I would share with people that want to support limiting or cutting back retirement benefits to those that put in their time. I might add that the $24,800 was what he left making; it took 22 years to get to that $ amount as well as quite a few promotions.
Linda, "The things like medical care, housing allowance, etc. evened the playing field some, but still were not near enough to make up the difference." The thing is that those benefits are taken out of their pay. They work for those benefits. Look at a LES. Now that Pete is retired, we write a check out to Tricare for our medical care (& we're fortunate to live close enough to post to stay on Tricare Prime) rather than have that taken out of his pay. They are forever talking about doing away with the PX and Commissary. I'd really miss the commissary if they closed that. Things have changed more & more for the worse. There's a laundry list of things and it isn't getting better that's for sure. Even staying in for 20 years, the reasons for doing that are evaporating.
There was talk on FOX News Sunday about one day women will have to register with the Selective Service.
Ladies: I am totally opposed to this alleged "women in combat" crap! That doesn't come from prejudge or whatever but from both personal experience and the historical nature of front line ground combat during the 20th Century. This is one of the absolute dumbest decisions ever!!!!!! Apparently those making this stupid move are totally ignorant of military history especially that of WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam as to what the real combat troops at the front endured. Even though I was armor by MOS, I served as an infantry adviser to the ARVN in Vietnam and, in addition to just the combat considerations, dealing with foreign nationals with a different view of females,, really nasty sanitation and living conditions (latrine facilities were two holes in a open bench over a canal), the environmental issues on operations, unit cohesion considerations, and the physical demands of extended harsh operations under those conditions makes this the ABSOLUTE DUMBEST thing yet from this administration! And that's saying a lot!!!!!!
Look at the trench warfare of WW1, the Pacific battles island battles of WW2 especially Guadalcanal, Battle of the Bulge and Italian mountain campaign of WW2, Chosin Reservoir and hill swapping campaigns of Korea, and Khe sanh/tet/Ia Drang Valley campaigns in Vietnam for example not to mention the long range patrol/SF operations/Ranger operations on D-Day/and similar even more stressful and physical operations and tell me how well women in those operations are going to "enhance" "readiness" and operational "performance"????? Sorry but this and open gays in the military are designed to do two things: play to specific interest groups with a Demagogue/"prgressive" tilt and REDUCE the readiness and effectiveness of the military by mixing social issues with the objectives of the military which is national defense and projection of power to support US interests overseas.
That doesn't even address factors like harassment, sexual activity. reduction in standards to make sure everyone gets an "opportunity", deployment factors like pregnancy/single parenthood/etc, and factors besides the stupidity of the idea in the first place. When pooh-poohing those factors keep in mind we just had a story of one general in Afghanistan now under charges for harassment and other offenses, the former commander there having had a affair with a subordinate when in country, a female O-6 Navy officer and astronaut going across country in a diaper to kidnap a love affair rival, a Canadian Air Force O-6 equivalent convicted of murder and other charges to hide an affair with a subordinate, or the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (Eisenhower) having an rather open affair with his British driver, a female military officer. Now if these things are done at high levels, some during war and in combat zones, just what do you think is going on at lower levels when in close living conditions in a stressful environment? Then there is the issue of how a draft would work if one was required again in a situation like WW2.
The odd thing on the most recent farce of "women in combat slots" is appears that most military women aren't that keen on the idea and it seems to be a small set of women who are interested in senior ranks that are pushing this for career advancement and pulling along all other women including those that could be drafted in the future (since the courts held in the past that drafting women wasn't legally required since they were excluded from combat) despite having zero interest in the military let alone combat slots.
OK ladies, tell me where I'm wrong here???
John, frankly with your attitude I find no reason to further address this with you. The unfortunate thing is you are basing all of your arguments on personal experience and conditions that no longer are the ones facing our troops today. Combat has changed John, equipment has changed, the type of warfare has changed and you are basing all of your opinions on the past. Therefore, that and the fact that you find women in combat crap make it impossible to discuss this with you; you have a closed mind and are not willing or interested in any constructive discussion.
Keep your opinion and realize that as that is your right, I have the right to mine, as well. I would think that you would, at least, acknowledge that men and women serving today have a much better idea of this subject than you.
I have deleted more of what I would like to say than have left as really, there is no point, as I just stated.
Linda: The type of actions that have gone on in Iraq and Afghanistan are not typical of most war actions since there is no organized national armed forces that are being engaged that holds territory and there is a front lines. What has been going on is a combination of counter insurgency and pacification program run from base camps for the most part that are secure and have living conditions much better than you find in a convrntional combat environment. The remainder of the operations are special forces operations or the type I experienced in Vietnam living remotely with local forces ranging from regular forces to militia types and those have not included women. Most causalities and actions that involve combat for women have been from road movements or helicopter support and not the direct combat we're talking about with infantry and armor operations. Most of the women were assigned to logistic support units or military police units doing route security and some utility helicopter units. The last conventional conflict was the First Gulf War and women's combat role there was limited to air actions that were in an environment were the allied forces had air superiority. Except for some incidents we haven't seen naval actions of direct combat since WW2, haven't seen air actions in a real threat environment since Vietnam, and intense (but limited time frame) conventional ground combat since 1991. There were no women in the armor and infantry units that spearheaded the 2002 Iraq invasion that encountered limited initial resistance nor in some of the major actions against more entrenched irregular forces like Fallujah. What is being overlooked for political purposes is ground combat isn't what has been going on for a while now except remote small unit actions and raids. That is one aspect of ground combat but not the whole range of actions that depend upon the war being fought and the enemy faced. What is facing our troops today isn't typical nor is it any more likely to be the next threat faced or operation conducted. BTW, how well has this type action been fought in the end since we bugged out of Iraq and are bugging out of Afghanistan?