|Forum Home > General Discussion > Vet Advocates Slam Potential TRICARE Cost Increase|
May 13, 2012
Military.com|by Bryant Jordan
Any move by Congress to tie military retiree healthcare costs to a veteran’s rank is nothing less than discrimination, the head of a major veterans service organization said Saturday.
“What they want to do is discriminate against military people and say if you serve longer you have to pay more for health care, if you’re more successful you have to pay more. That’s discrimination,” said retired Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr., president of the Military Officers Association of America. He spoke on a panel before a gathering of more than 100 military bloggers at Military.com’s annual Milblog Conference.
Ryan said military retirees have already paid in years of sacrifice and service.
Ryan was one of four veterans advocates taking part in the discussion on benefits moderated by Rick Maze, longtime Capitol Hill reporter for the Military Times newspapers. Maze framed the opening of the discussion by pointing out that the current charge to raise TRICARE out-of-pocket fees on retirees to save money is being led largely by the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Congress recently that the skyrocketing costs of personnel – which includes retiree healthcare – poses a threat to national security as it eats up an increasing portion of the DoD budget.
A letter signed by flag and general officers, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, made the same point.
Chazz Pratt, military veterans community manager for USAA, said the proposed recommendations show that the government is not keeping its word to the country’s veterans.
“I believe that a promise made needs to be a promise kept,” he said.
Pentagon officials backing higher fees and means-testing of fees say it’s a matter of “shared sacrifice.” Congress is already talking about bringing down the deficit through belt-tightening in other areas, with most Republicans and some Democrats seriously looking at cuts or changes to traditionally sacrosanct programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
“Our association and most of the veterans I talk to want to be part of the solution to our economy and deficit,” Ryan said. “But we don’t want to be taken advantage of.”
Tom Tarantino, former Army captain and now legislative director for Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America, maintains that upping the costs of retiree healthcare should not be considered a matter of shared sacrifice.
Regardless of other economic factors, anything that would adversely affect any veteran and retiree programs should never be put on the negotiating table, he said.
“They’re not benefits. They’re not entitlement programs. It’s not like this is something we’re doing [as a country] to help somebody out,” Tarantino said. “It’s something you’ve earned through your service. It’s part of the compensation package you get for putting your life on the line.”