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Cuts to Military Health Benefits On The Horizon

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In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the top Republican on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee has endorsed President Obama’s proposal to cut military health benefits. Senator John McCain of Arizona will recommend to the Congressional “super committee” – a collection of Senators and Representatives tasked with cutting the federal budget by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years – that they implement modest cuts to a variety of military health programs.

The move is drawing ferocious opposition from veterans’ groups and other special interests associated with the military.  Today, The Veterans of Foreign Wars called for two million veterans to protest the changes.  Their argument: The sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces merit generous health and retirement benefits.  But the Pentagon’s health care costs have ballooned over the last decade from $19 billion to $51 billion, largely due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The government is sparing no one in its attempt to grapple with the looming budget deficit.

Most of the changes are pretty technical, and involve small administrative changes and fees.  However, the most costly change would be disallowing retirees under the age of 65 from enrolling in TriCare Prime, the cheapest of all health care options.  Senator McCain says that this would save $111 billion dollars over ten years, but it would have the greatest impact on the most veterans.

President Obama and Senator McCain see these reductions as the only way to slash defense spending while avoiding further cuts in operations, equipment and troop strength.

If these cuts are signed into law, they will surely affect military families.  Spouses and children of working-age retirees will undoubtedly face larger health care bills.  However, Senators Levin and McCain insist that anyone currently retired or serving now will be “grandfathered in,” meaning that their benefits will not change.  The intended cuts only apply to service members who join after the bill is passed.

How do you feel about the proposed cuts?  Do you believe that bringing down the federal deficit means all of us – even our veterans – need to sacrifice?  Or do you think that veterans’ benefits should be off limits?  I’m looking forward to your comments.  And be sure to stay tuned to my blog here at Militaryfamily.com for updates and news about this story.


(Image from personalinsuranceplans.net)


  1. David Blackman

    October 22, 2011

    If they’re looking for health care savings in the DoD budget, why not create “joint” health care? Do we need three Surgeons General, three massive infrastructures, three training pipelines, etc.? Some of this is already happening. Aren’t there savings to be had – low hanging fruit, if you will?

    • Gabriel Coeli

      October 22, 2011

      David, that’s a great idea. You can’t tell me that Navy Corpsmen and Army medics shouldn’t train at the same school – in fact, it would do everyone good to get together from the different branches of service and trade ideas and experiences. But all of the branches are so territorial that they don’t want to give it up.

  2. Kiona Strickland

    October 22, 2011

    Aside from the emotional debate inherent in cutting veterans’ benefits, the practical reality is that without access to programs like TriCare Prime, veterans and their families will still need health care, and the burden of those costs will only get shifted to other federal and state programs like Medicaid or passed on to employers in the form of lost hours. It may look like savings on paper, but in actuality it’s just shifting costs to other already-financially-strapped programs at the worst possible time.