Recently, my wife and I received our letters. They were signed by W. Bryan Gamble, M.D., FACS, Brigadier General, US Army. His signature block identifies him as the Deputy Director of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs.
“Beginning October 1, 2013, TRICARE Prime [our healthcare insurance] coverage will not be available where you currently live…”
The letter tells us that we may still be able to enroll in TRICARE Prime at a military treatment facility. I mention that for the benefit of our Congressional representatives from the state of West Virginia who should know that there are no military treatment facilities in our state. I do not recall any of them raising a ruckus.
The General, whose letter was signed with an illegible electronic pen scribble, also instructed us:
“As you prepare for this change, you should look carefully at your health care options, such as using TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra or obtaining insurance through a spouse or an employer.” [because the country you and your family served is finished with you]
All of those options are more expensive than TRICARE Prime. Not to worry about my wife or me. We will survive. We always have. We left the military with about the same as we had when we entered it. Enlisted military families who serve a lifetime in uniform do not have much opportunity to build wealth. Our pensions are never enough to live on, so regardless of the years in uniform work after service remains a necessity. Health care coverage offered through TRICARE Prime is a significant retirement benefit. There will be no increase in pensions to make up for the added costs. Some of us caught in the window where work is ended and age 65 has not yet arrived must just suck it up.
It was years of struggle before military retirees and their families had any form of the promised lifetime of healthcare for a lifetime of service. Even with what we now have, we are dumped into MEDICARE as soon as we turn 65, without which we would have no coverage. Not even TRICARE For Life.
I read where it was necessary to start making these changes in health care coverage because it now makes up an estimated 10 percent of the Department of Defense “non-war fighting” budget. I thought that was an interesting note. I spent 28 years in the Army.
I can assure you that the waste and unnecessary expenditures in that other 90 percent far exceeds the 10 percent spent on health care. Lord help us we should reduce the amount of cherry wood furniture filling those opulent Pentagon offices or reduce the travel budgets of the service chiefs, or the chairman. The idea that health care coverage is breaking the defense budget is a gigantic red herring.
No, it is simply an easy target for lazy Defense Department budget bureaucrats and politicians. Military retirees, actually Veterans and serving members of the Armed Forces in general are not a very powerful voting bloc. We never have been. Soldiers always counted on the people they protected to look out for them. Naiveté exemplified. We simply are not the sought after identity group that politicians seem hell-bent to slobber over these days. No. Now as in the past serving members, retirees and their families have been the soft target when it comes to the “shared sacrifice” so important to modern political speak. Looks like the share we banked over the years drew little interest in Washington’s bank of political expediency. That is fine. We have become used to it. As Soldiers, new and old, we all know how to improvise, adapt and overcome and to never count on a politician for anything……………….