Allen B. West

Government punishes military retirees with another cut: Tricare center closures

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Once upon a time those who gave a life of service, sacrifice, and commitment to our military were promised quality medical and dental care, free, for life, and for their spouse. I remember when that promise was broken, because according to government “bean counters,” it was no longer affordable.

So a new program was established called Tricare where retirees would pay a small price for their healthcare. Then came ruminations that military retirees were costing the government too much for their healthcare. You must understand we are talking about less than one percent of the American population. Let me say that again, less than one percent of the population even qualify for these benefits.

Now we hear Capitol Hill lawmakers say they can save money by taking away the annual one percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees until they reach 62.

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Doggone, it must be hell to have served over 20 years in deplorable situations and conditions for pay that was less than civilian counterparts — risking your life along the way, now to find out you’re just too expensive for the US government.

It’s death by a thousand cuts — and here’s the next one.

According to Amy Bushatz at Military.com,

All stateside Tricare in-person service centers will be closing April 1, Tricare officials recently confirmed. The closure of the 189 facilities is expected to save the Defense Department about $50 million a year, officials said. The Tricare Service Centers, which handle about 137,000 visitors a month, are staffed by contractors and handle issues ranging from processing provider changes to billing problems.

Supposedly the closures won’t affect Tricare benefits or health care service but will allow the department to save $250 million over the next five years. Bear in mind $250 million represents about .007 percent of the current budget – so you can see how tiny that savings is over five years.

The savings will allow Tricare to invest in “more important services.” Such as? Maybe Obamacare-related?

Clearly the goal isn’t personal service to our men and women serving, especially their families. Instead, what the heck, they can just call the toll-free number. Or can they?

I honestly do not know what we would have done this past year without in-person Tricare help,” wrote Danielle Kaczor, on Military.com’s SpouseBuzz blog. “My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia and gets all treatment and medications at a children’s hospital, and billing for all this was quite screwy in the beginning.” And Jim Lamberson wrote, “I’ve been on the phone and used the website and both are useless,” Jim Lamberson wrote on SpouseBuzz.com. “When I go to the Tricare Service center, they are always helpful. There is a level of care and concern when talking face to face vice over the phone or website. I vote to keep these centers. They are valuable to the aging retiree.

Unfortunately Jim, aging retirees, young retirees, veterans, the military — none of it is important to the Obama administration. Look, he won reelection so there’s no need for him to go make empty speeches to the VFW or American Legion anymore.

I find it unconscionable and despicable that we are witnessing the disrespect and disregard of the sacrifices done by so few, for so many. I am quite sure that if Danielle Kaczor and Jim Lamberson, or any of us for that matter, spent a week with the federal budget we could find savings to maintain these Tricare service centers, and military retiree annual Cost of Living Allowances. I believe a call to every member of the House and Senate is warranted, especially if you have a representative who serves on the veterans affairs committee.

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