America's veterans organizations are urging everyone to join the fight to stop the Defense Department from penny-pinching service members to the point of dismantling the allvolunteer force.
The 2012 National Authorization Act increases to TRICARE (health care program for uniformed service members, retirees and their families) fees for retirees. Now, the Department of Justice budget unveiled Feb. 13 recommends 1.7 percent military pay raises for 2013 and 2014, followed by a scant 0.5 percent increase in 2015, and 1 percent in 2016. Also announced were plans to almost quadruple TRICARE prime enrollment fees for some working-age military retirees, impose TRICARE for Life enrollment fees on those older than 65, and introduce enrollment fees and increase deductibles on TRICARE Standard and Extra users. Included in DOD's health care revenue plan are increased pharmaceutical copayments for retirees as well as military dependents.
DOD also recommends reducing the size of the active force by more than 100,000 troops over the next five years - mostly soldiers and Marines - through attrition, a reduction in force, mandatory retirements and high-year-of-tenure separations, among others. In addition, DOD gave the go-ahead to create a commission to examine overhauling the current military retirement system in a manner that would benefit the government more through saving than reward someone who first has to volunteer 20 or more years of their youth just to qualify.
Ideas already floated older programs such as High-3 Pay and reduced retirement plan (Redux), as well as new ones that would delay receipt of retirement pay until age 60 (similar to current National Guard and Reserve programs), or be contributory, 401(k) programs (similar to corporate America). Newly authorized are 15-year retirements, which accrue at the normal rate of 2.5 percent of base pay annually, minus a 1 percent penalty for every year below 20.
Contact your congressmen and tell them there is no military issue more important than pay and benefits. A secure America requires a strong military and to ask any service member to sacrifice more on behalf of our nation, remember the words of President Wilson: "A nation that forgets its defenders will itself some day be forgotten."
Whether a friend or family member served four years or 40 years, we ask you to join with the veterans organizations to defeat any proposal that puts budget before the troops and their families. We absolutely cannot allow the government to break faith with those who serve and sacrifice the most. To all the heroes who went before us, Old Glory still waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave. God Bless America.
Robert H. Brothers
United States Army