[HEALTH.MIL] Do Veterans Have A Right To Free Health Care For Life?

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  • Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2011 19:37:18 -0600


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Do Veterans Have A Right To Free Health Care For Life? 

By Jeff Schogol


Published: November 23, 2011


Time and time again, Stars and Stripes hears from readers who say they were
promised free medical care for life when they joined the military. The topic
usually comes up when there is talk of raising Tricare fees for military

"I do mind paying more than $460.00 per year," one reader commented on such a
story in January. "I was promised FREE medical and DENTAL for me and my family,
for life. So to me any increase is a continuation of the break of a promise that
was already broken."

Clearly, these folks feel betrayed, so The Rumor Doctor set out to see if there
is any truth to this belief that troops and veterans are entitled to free health
care for life.

"The short answer is no," said Peter Graves, a spokesman for the assistant
defense secretary for health affairs. "Health care benefits for military
members, retirees, and their families are, and have always been, as provided by
law, and the law has never promised free health care for life."

The law provides free medical care for servicemembers on active duty and their
families, Graves said in an email.

Congressional Research Service, which provides analysis for Congress, issued a
2003 report that found veterans were not entitled to free medical care for life,
even though they may have been promised exactly that by their recruiters.

Since 1956, veterans and their families can be treated at military medical
facilities "subject to the availability of space and facilities and the
capabilities of the medical and dental staff," the report found.

"They have no right to military health care and the military services have total
discretion in when and under what circumstances retirees and their dependents
will get care in military treatment facilities," the report said.

Several veterans have taken their claims to court, alleging that recruiters
promised them free medical care, but one court ruled that such promises did not
constitute a contract, the report said.

Moreover, since recruiters do not have the authority to make such promises,
there is no way to enforce them, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit ruled in 2002. The Supreme Court later refused to hear the case, ending
the matter.

"The courts, and other analysts, have noted that allowing these claims to create
such an obligation would thwart the Constitutional role of Congress (i.e.,
prevent the Congress from determining the compensation and benefits of the armed
forces) and create a situation wherein military personnel/retirees (and
potentially al other federal employees) could create or expand their own
benefits with popular myth or rumor and without review," the CRS report found.

THE RUMOR DOCTOR'S DIAGNOSIS: The rumor of free medical care for life is false,
even though some veterans were promised it by recruiters, who were in no
position to make such a promise. As the CRS report makes clear, "Unauthorized
promises based on mistakes, fraud, etc. do not constitute a contractual
obligation on the part of the government/taxpayer."




SOURCE:  Stars & Stripes article at




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