This is a crucial week for the military community, as the so-called "Super Committee" is supposed to offer its recommendations by Wednesday on initiatives to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
We know that the Defense Department, the White House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders have endorsed significant health care fee hikes for military healthcare (TRICARE), as well as reviews of options to curtail the total military compensation and retirement package. These proposals show a shocking insensitivity to the extraordinary demands and sacrifices imposed on career servicemembers and families.
Last Wednesday, at a meeting with Senate Democratic leaders, including Super Committee co-chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), I thanked them for what they are doing for veterans and for their efforts to support military families.
But I said we've been shocked and disappointed at how those expressions of support are being contradicted by recent White House and congressional proposals to cut back and civilianize military healthcare and retirement programs -- including significant enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life and pharmacy copays of $40 or more for all family members, retirees and survivors.
While defense officials assert health costs are "eating them alive", they've done little to meet their own cost management responsibilities'ignoring billions in savings opportunities to be realized from more efficient management, ignoring repeated studies that urged combining redundant service and contractor systems, and failing to effectively promote the cost-saving mail-order pharmacy program.
While evading their own oversight responsibilities, defense and Administration leaders have blamed beneficiaries and sought to shift significantly more costs to patients.
The hard fact is, I told the Senate leaders, the Pentagon and the Executive Branch have historically resisted almost every significant "people program" initiative, and it's been Congress that has had to ensure military people are fairly treated.
As the Super Committee nears its reporting deadline (or risks automatic budget cuts if it can't agree) and as Congress takes up the FY2012 Defense Authorization Bill, it's essential for MOAA and Voices members and other concerned members of the military community to let your legislators know your thoughts.
Please act today and send them this Voices-suggested message urging rejection of proposals to raise health care fees on military beneficiaries until the Pentagon first fulfills its own responsibilities for effective and efficient program management.
Your active grassroots participation'and spreading the word to get others actively involved'is the only way we can help ensure the sacrifices of the military community for our country are fairly recognized.
VADM Norb Ryan, USN (Ret)
President, Voices for America's Troops