Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For The Military, Wars Against Washington Never End

For The Military, Wars Against Washington Never End

Harlingen, Texas, January 12, 2009: When they packed away that military uniform for the last time, they all leaned back and thought their battles were over. Wrong!!!! The battles had just started. It matters not if they served this country for a sprinkling of years or devoted the most productive years of their lives in the service of the United States of America. They still need to battle Washington almost daily to gain even a shadow of their promised benefits for good and faithful service.

The Washington elite have historically promised much and delivered very little to anyone who wore the uniform of this nation. This is an accepted fact among those who are now on active duty, are retired from our armed forces, members of the reserve or National Guard, and of course, the veterans of one or several tours of duty. Now with the anti-war, anti-military faction holding both the White House and Capital Hill, dark clouds are forming that bode ill for the military community.

Washington D. C. has never really been “military friendly”. In point of fact, the military community is the only major constituency in the country that does not have a strong advocate at the seat of power. At one point, following World War II, Congress was rich in veterans of the armed forces. Those days have become pages in history. Today, very few of our elected leaders have served the Flag under arms.

Some say the military community is represented by the Department of Defense, but this is far from being the truth. DoD is really only interested in what is taking place in the world right now. They represent the active duty military to some degree, but spend most of their energy on the war machine, big defense contracts and romancing congressional supporters.

This same DoD, in its various forms, spent more than 100 years fighting against disabled military retirees and making sure they had retirement checks reduced by the amount of any disability compensation received.

This same agency refused to support those service personnel in the hundreds of thousands who were seeking medical help after they participated in the thirty years of atomic testing and saw uncountable numbers suffer and in many cases die from cancers caused by excessive radiation.

The DoD failed in its duty to provide for the future health of those several thousand soldiers and airmen who were part of a CIA and Army drug and mind control program at the Edgewood Arsenal. In most cases, DoD claimed it couldn’t even find the service records of those who volunteered for the program.

One of the most reprehensible cases participated in by the Department of Defense is its multi-year battle in the courts to keep retired military personnel from receiving medical care that had been promised them and their dependents for life, if they devoted twenty years or more to active duty service. Though all branches of the armed forces had promised these benefits as incentives for reenlistment, it was still ruled by the Supreme Court that the armed forces did not have the authority to make such promises.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also puts a forth an image of giving the military community a helping hand, when in reality it works in lock step with whatever direction the Department of Defense is marching. It is only through long and repeated efforts by individual veterans, service organizations, and a small handful of elected officials that anything gets accomplished through the VA. All of the groups previously mentioned have been making appeals through the VA for years with minimal positive results.

While these agencies are far from being strong advocates for the entire military community, Congress is even a less friendly body. Those members of Congress with any military service listed on their resumes are few in number and have very little influence. Though they repeatedly file bills in support of the military community, this proposed legislation usually dies for lack of support by the majority, be it Democrat or Republican at the time.

The Democrat majority has a history of supporting proposed pro-military legislation during election campaigns or when in a minority role in the House or Senate. When in a position to do something positive, they are usually missing in action, or anti-everything when it comes to the armed forces. Now as a new Democrat leadership takes the helm in Washington another attack is about to be waged on both the active duty service families and the retired military community.

Since the mid 1990s a DoD program called Tricare has been the plan by which active duty service members, retired military under age 65 and their dependents received health care. Originally military hospitals cared for retirees and active duty families. That service is still offered on paper. Regulations allow for treatment when there is “space available”. However, that space never seems to be “available” to those in need. So, those in uniform and their families, visit civilian doctors using one of three different Tricare programs. Even then some service members claim getting treatment can be difficult. Many doctors will not accept the plans due to the low rates of payment for medical care.

The latest attack on our men and women in uniform comes from the Congressional Budget Office, which has presented in cost saving recommendation to the incoming Administration and Congress. The CBO

recommends that Tricare Prime which is purchased at an annual enrollment fee of $230 per individual and $460 per family, in addition to a $12 co-pay for each outpatient visit, be increased to $550 annual enrollment fee per individual and $1,100 per family, plus and increase in co-payments to $28 per visit. Those who use Tricare Standard or Extra plans would face an annual deductible of $50 per individual and $700 per family. Also, for the first time, those who enroll in Tricare Standard or Extra would face and annual fee of $50 per individual and $100 for family coverage.

One of the most outrageous recommendations made by the CBO involves a program called Tricare for Life. This program became law following the Supreme Court rejection of retired military litigation, which attempted to win their promised lifetime medical care. Though the court rejected the request because, as it claimed, the armed forces did not have the authority to make such promises, it also admonished both the service branches and Congress for allowing the practice to continue from World War II until the late 1950s.

In response, Congress passed Tricare for Life, which acts like a supplemental insurance to pick up those charges that Medicare will not cover. It is only available to retired military personnel and dependents over age 65, who are enrolled in Medicare. Under to CBO proposal Tricare for Life would not cover the first $525 of an enrollee’s cost sharing liabilities and would limit the coverage to 50% of the next $4,725 of Medicare cost.

It seems as if those who have served this nation in both war and peace are about to lose again. Those who offered up their own lives to keep everyone at home safe and secure will never get to stop fighting. When their combat enemies fade away, the ever-present enemies in Washington reemerge.

This new Tricare conflict threatens to reduce even those small gains the military community has obtained. This cost reduction plan, in the middle of trillion dollar bailout giveaways, could be the start an unending battle with Washington.

Semper Fidelis,
Thomas D. Segel


I added the emphasis to the plight of the Edgewood Veterans as it is a cause close to my heart, as I am one of the survivors

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