February 23, 2011
Thank you for contacting me regarding proposed increases in health insurance fees paid by retired veterans under 65. I sincerely appreciate the dedication and sacrifice made by our service members and their families. It is an honor to represent the people of Southwest Washington and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
The White House has ordered the Pentagon to decrease spending, not counting the costs of its combat operations, by $78 billion over the next five years. Amongst an array of cost cutting measures, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced he will seek to offset billions of dollars by increasing fees paid by retired veterans under 65 for Defense Department health insurance. Increases in fees for Tricare require Congressional approval, and similar proposals have been rejected in the past.
U.S. debt is becoming a long-term national security threat. I support strong spending reforms, but increasing fees for retired veterans is not the first place we should look for quick reductions in federal spending. Please know I will keep your concerns in mind should further action be taken on this issue.
Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. I invite you to visit my website at www.herrerabeutler.house.gov for additional information or to sign up to be kept up to date on these issues. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
Jaime Herrera Beutler
Member of Congress
MY LETTER TO HER:
I am retired Air Force. I retired in Feb. of 2005. I initially enlisted in 1975, and at that time, being a serviceman in the United States Military meant something and there were some pretty good benefits of being in the military. Being in the military meant that you could go to the Base PX, or BX, depending on where you were. At that time, you could expect to get discounted pricing on most items in the Exchange. Because the military pay was not very good, it was the only way you could expect to make “ends meet” and make it from payday to payday. The same was also true of the Base Commissary. Grocery shopping at the Commissary was the only way you could afford to put decent food on the table, especially if you were not and NCO, when the pay started to get better. Along with those benefits, medical care was always provided. Active Duty personnel and their families could be assured that their medical needs would be met. This benefit was also provided to the retirees simply because, They Earned It, by 20+ years of faithful, dedicated service to their country. Well, in the 35 + years since my initial enlistment, I have witnessed a slow, methodical “whittling away” of these benefits at the hands of our elected officials. The prices in both the BX’s and the Commissaries has risen to the point where it is no longer cost effective to shop on base, AND our medical care has been under attack since the DOD decided to change over to Tri-Care several years ago. Being AGR in the Air National Guard, we were “geologically separated” from any military medical facility because we are over 100 miles from any active duty military base. When we were forced to transfer to Tri-Care, all us AGR’s various Dr.’s dropped us like a hot rock because of the small amount Tri-Care reimburses the care givers. We were left high and dry and were forced to find a care-giver who would accept “Tri-Care” patients. For some of us, that was a daunting task. Since then, many of us “Tri-Care” people have had significant difficulties with the Tri-Care system. I knew we were in for a rough ride when I found out that Tri-Care has a Congressional Office. That tells me, there are significant problems with this system we were forced into. Now, to top it off, the DOD is planning to significantly increase our premiums for this sub-standard plan. My costs are planned to go up $2000 more a year. This is simply unacceptable. I know that we sent you to Congress to make the touch choices, but, you need to understand that, by taking this action, you will be severely and adversely effect the quality of the military. Initially, what will happen is, people like me, still in the system, who are career because they are working for the benefits, will leave. This means that a huge portion of the “Brain Trust”, the very people the military depends on to train and lead, will depart. To say “retention” will suffer, is an understatement. This will also effect future enlistment because there will no longer be any incentive to go in the military. Why would anyone go into the military, be put in harms way, sacrifice and dedicate yourself to your duties, if there is no longer anything worth staying for? Doing this for “just a paycheck” will not suffice.. So now the DOD is going to saddle the retirees who are still of working age, with an additional financial burden, right when we cannot afford it the most. It is my considered opinion that mistreating the very people that sacrificed so much for this country is not only wrong headed, but immoral. I urge you to not support any plan to saddle the military, both active and retired with anymore financial burden. The retirees, especially the disabled, cannot and should not be expected to sacrifice any more. They, we, me, we have all sacrificed enough and can ill afford any more hardships. The economy is hurting enough as it is. This is nothing short of “insult to injury”.
I URGE ALL VETS TO WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES NOW!!