[HEALTH.MIL] Military Health And Retirement Benefits Take A Hit In Lawmakers' Proposals

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  • Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2011 11:36:44 -0500

Military Health And Retirement Benefits Take A Hit In Lawmakers' Proposals

By Emily Long elong@xxxxxxxxxxx
October 19, 2011

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Leading members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are pushing for changes
to military members' health and annuity benefits as a way to cut government

Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., last week submitted
recommendations to the deficit reduction super committee in support of the Obama
administration's cost-saving proposal released last month. The plan would
mandate annual fees under TRICARE-for-Life, which pays beneficiaries'
out-of-pocket Medicare costs. Fees would start at $200 in 2012 and increase
annually to align with those paid by all TRICARE enrollees. 

The proposal also would eliminate pharmacy co-payments for generic mail-order
drugs while shifting retail co-pays from a dollar figure to a percentage. The
change would affect military families and retirees, but would not apply to
active-duty service members. The administration also recommended the creation of
a panel to look at reforming military retirement benefits. 

In his letter, McCain agreed with Levin's recommendations, but added that the
commission should consider excluding working-age military retirees from
participating in TRICARE Prime, which offers the lowest out-of-pocket expenses
of any Defense Department health plan. Retirees and their families would be
eligible for TRICARE Standard or Extra, while active-duty personnel would
continue to be enrolled automatically in TRICARE Prime. The Congressional Budget
Office found that this measure could save $111 billion over 10 years, McCain

Members of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees did not recommend
specific cuts, instead drawing the commission's attention to cost-saving
measures affecting veterans that Congress has considered in the past. 

Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday called on its members to fight proposed
changes to military pay and benefits. 

"The 'people programs' inside the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs
are expensive because it takes people to fight our wars, and with less than one
percent of our citizens currently in uniform, any degradation of these hard
fought-for programs will break faith with those who sacrifice the most, and will
place the continued viability of the all-volunteer military in serious
jeopardy," said VFW Commander-in-Chief Richard L. DeNoyer. 

The Military Officers Association of America expressed disappointment in the
recommendations, saying they "strongly disagree" with proposed changes to
TRICARE and other military compensation programs.

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