Retired Military Health Benefits Not “On the Chopping Block,” Yet

As I pointed out, here, and here, the blogosphere has been rife with rumors and innuendoes about how President Obama is trying to cut off funds for TRICARE For Life (“Cutting it out of the budget as a means to provide funding for those things he promised during the campaign.”)

TRICARE For Life is an excellent and essential secondary health insurance program supplementing Medicare for certain military retirees and their families. These veterans have more than earned such benefits through their sacrifice and service to our nation, and those benefits must not be even reduced, let alone “cut-off.”

However, hysteria surrounding unfounded and premature rumors neither helps the veterans now, nor will it make their legitimate chorus of protest—should such be ever necessary—more credible or powerful.

Fortunately, voices of reason and moderation are beginning to emerge.

Two in particular come from very reputable military organizations.

Here’s what they have to say:

The Reserve Officers Association (ROA):

A viral e-mail campaign is unsettling military retirees over 65. Sourcing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, these e-mails claim that TRICARE for Life is at risk. These distress warnings are overstated.

The report, on Budget Options, Volume 1: Health Care lists 115 options for reducing federal spending on health care, altering federal healthcare programs, and making substantive changes to the nation’s health insurance system. But these are not formal recommendations. The suggestion for TRICARE for Life is only Option 96 on the list. None are formal recommendations.

A total of six proposals of the 115 might affect military health care. Other options include increasing health care cost sharing for family members of military personnel on active duty (Option 95); increasing health care cost sharing for military retirees under age 65 (Option 97); and copayments and changes to enrollment for medical care provided by the Veterans Affairs Hospitals for enrollees without a service-connected disability (Options 28, 29 and 98)

And:

ROA would like to thank those members who brought this report to our attention. The Reserve Officers Association is concerned with legislation that might affect the military health readiness, and deny earned health benefits and will continue to track this issue. ROA leadership has been in discussions with other military and veteran associations and the consensus is that currently there is no serious risk. At this point there are no fires needing to be put out.

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) in “As I See It — Budget ‘Options’ Stir Concerns,” also puts the CBO report in perspective:

First things first: It’s important to understand that this book of options is nothing new. CBO puts out similar lists of options at the start of every Congress, and previous option books have included these or similar proposals. Some of the cuts were, in fact, put in the Bush administration’s annual budgets, but they were rebuffed by Congress every year.

Second, these are “options” put forth by CBO, not “recommendations.” In many cases, the papers acknowledge there are downsides to the proposals, such as the likelihood that higher fees will deter beneficiaries from seeking needed care.

And

It’s a complete unknown at this point what the new President might put in his first budget proposal to Congress – expected sometime this spring. We’ve seen no indication at this point that the new Administration will share the perspective of the last one that more costs ought to be shifted to DoD and VA beneficiaries.

But warns:

But there’s certainly no guarantee the new budget won’t include any such proposals.

What we are confident of is, whether or not this year’s budget proposes any of these or other benefit cutbacks, it’s only a matter of time before the attacks will come again.

For more of the MOAA report, please go here.

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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5 Comments

  1. Reference DORIAN DE WIND's article. Remember this… if you do not tell the Congress otherwise they will think that everything is OK. Any hint of changes to Tricare and Tricare for Life is NOT OK. This is the message I'm systematically FAXing to every Senator.

    A portion of a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report contains words like this, “Under this option, TFL would not cover any of the first $525 of an enrollee’s cost-sharing liabilities for calendar year 2011 and would limit coverage to 50 percent of the next $4,725 in Medicare cost sharing that the beneficiary incurred. Because all further cost sharing would be covered by TFL, enrollees could not pay more than $2,888 in cost sharing in that year”. CBO wants to tamper with the Tricare for Life Medicare supplement which was passed into law in lieu of the free medical care military retirees were promised for serving 20 or more years in the military. These savings suggested by CBO will be financially devastating to the military retirees who have once again depended on a United States Government's Tricare for Life promise. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has made it very clear that military retirees were promised free medical care after retirement. Reference: http://mrgrg-ms.org/f99-1402.html#conclusion. It has been clear for some time that the United States military/government lied to retain needed active duty military personnel, with offers of free medical care for serving twenty or more years, under stressful battle conditions, low pay, sub-standard housing and more, to keep this nation free. It's time for the United States Government to bail out the military retirees that have served this country faithfully for 20 or more years and leave the Tricare programs alone. PLEASE VOTE AGAINST MAKING CHANGES TO TRICARE FOR LIFE AND OTHER TRICARE PROGRAMS.

    Floyd Sears, MSGT, USAF, 1951 to 1971 (retired), fsears@bellsouth.net, http://mrgrg-ms.org/

  2. MSgt Sears:

    Agree, agree and agree. Yes, we must let Congress and the adminstration know in the most forceful and well-informed manner that we will not tolerate our benefits–especially our precious health care benefits–being tinkered with. BUT, we must do this based on facts and not on rumors, mis-information, fearmongering and innuendo. Doing so will only take away from our message when the time comes. (I remember something about a boy who cried wolf)

    Thank you for your service

  3. Please point out the parts of my message which is rumors, mis-information, fear-mongering and innuendo. I cry wolf because the wolf is already here. He has bit us in the back-side already (see http://mrgrg-ms.org/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn9lB8J_M44 ). I'm simply telling the congress how I feel so they will know beforehand. It takes time to FAX my message to the Congress. If I waited until a bill was before them before I started my process then how many do you think I could reach before a vote was taken. I guess the bottom line here is… you do it your way and I'll do it my way.

    Floyd Sears, MSGT, USAF, 1951 to 1971 (retired)

  4. MSgt Spears:

    Of course I can't point out parts of your message “which is rumors, mis-information, fear-mongering and innuendo,” because I was not referring to your message.

    Please read my article again, and click on the two links (“here” and “here”) provided in this part of my article that says:

    “As I pointed out, here, and here, the blogosphere has been rife with rumors and innuendoes about how President Obama is trying to cut off funds for TRICARE For Life (”Cutting it out of the budget as a means to provide funding for those things he promised during the campaign.”)

    And you'll find what I am talking about.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment

  5. as the widow of a military retiree (Sgt. Theron E. Stone, USAR), i am in agreement that TFL benefits for those of us over 65 cannot be changed. When my husband died, i lost the benefit of his social security, and my portion of his army pension reduced to 55%. My property taxes, utility bills, heatin expenses, etc. all remain the same or cost more than at the time of his death. If i had to purchase new or supplement TFL with copays, i would be hard pressed. when he died the army told me this was something i would never have to worry about. i am sure there are others like me who pray they never have to worry aboout this. thank you for listening.

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