Congress Needs To Rethink Its Priorities

Politico posted an article today about the appointment of Joe Dunford as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The article reports:

The Obama administration is counting on Dunford to take the lead in pushing a series of proposals designed to shrink the pay and benefits of troops as the Pentagon wrestles with the need to rein in its personnel costs.

There was a related article in yesterday’s New Bern Sun Journal.

The article in the Sun Journal explains where some of the cuts will take place. Military personnel who retire after 20 years will receive 40 percent of their basic pay rather than the 50 percent they currently receive. Military personnel who serve for 12 years will also receive a retirement benefit. I don’t know whose idea this was, but they need to rethink it. First of all, does the person who came up with this plan understand the sacrifices a soldier and his family make during that twenty years? Do they understand that a 40-something year old man retiring from the military will begin his business career at the bottom of the ladder competing with much younger men? Why are they taking money away from people who serve twenty years and giving money to people who serve only twelve? There is also an alternative 401k-type retirement plan proposed for new military members. I am fine with that as long as the benefits for those currently serving are not altered. The government signed a contract with our current military that promised certain benefits during their service and afterwards. Congress does not have the right to viod that contract.

Politico reports some of the other changes:

An even more controversial proposal, put forward by an independent commission, would overhaul the military health care system, known as TRICARE, so that dependents and retirees would choose from private insurance options that would be subsidized, rather than have the care provided through a government-run system.

I don’t oppose taking the health care system away from the government–I do oppose increasing the cost to military members, retirees, and their families.

There are better places to cut the federal budget. We have an all volunteer military force that includes many very dedicated people. Cutting their benefits will impact the number and quality of the people who join the military in the future.

Before we cut the benefits we give to those who serve in our military, let’s take a really good look at the perks we provide to Congress.

This Is Just Wrong

The Congressional Budget Office website has posted a suggestion for cutting our military spending. As usual, it is a suggestion that does nothing to solve the bureaucracy problem–it just takes money away from people who were actually promised benefits.

Aside from the toll twenty or more years in the military takes on families, it also takes a physical toll on the soldiers. Many of our retiring soldiers also collect disability pay for various injuries suffered in the course of their service. These injuries include war injuries, but they also include more simple (but often painful) injuries acquired in the various physical requirements of service. Under the current program, soldiers with injuries collect disability pay (the amount is based on the severity of the injuries) as well as retirement pay. The Obama Administration is wanting to change that.

The article explains:

Military service members who retire—either following 20 or more years of military service under the longevity-based retirement program or early because of a disability—are eligible for retirement annuities from the Department of Defense (DoD). In addition, veterans with medical conditions or injuries that were incurred or worsened during active-duty military service (excluding those resulting from willful misconduct) are eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Until 2003, military retirees who were eligible for disability compensation could not receive both their full retirement annuity and their disability compensation. Instead, they had to choose between receiving their full retirement annuity from DoD or receiving their disability benefit from VA and forgoing an equal amount of their DoD retirement annuity; that reduction in the retirement annuity is generally referred to as the VA offset. Because the retirement annuity is taxable and disability compensation is not, most retirees chose the second alternative.

As a result of several laws, starting with the National Defense Authorization Act for 2003, two classes of retired military personnel who receive VA disability compensation (including those who retired before the enactment of those laws) can now receive payments that make up for part or all of the VA offset, benefiting from what is often called concurrent receipt. Specifically, retirees whose disabilities arose from combat are eligible for combat-related special compensation (CRSC), and veterans who retire with 20 or more years of military service and who receive a VA disability rating of 50 percent or more are eligible for what is termed concurrent retirement and disability pay (CRDP). CRSC is exempt from federal taxes, but CRDP is not; some veterans would qualify for both types of payments but must choose between the two.

This option would eliminate concurrent receipt of retirement pay and disability compensation beginning in 2015: Military retirees currently drawing CRSC or CRDP would no longer receive those payments, nor would future retirees. As a result, the option would reduce federal spending by $108 billion between 2015 and 2023, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

This is not the place to cut government spending. One of the things President Obama has done in office has been to undo the welfare reforms put in place by the Clinton Administration. Going back to those regulations, which actually decreased welfare rolls and put people back to work, would seriously reduce government spending. We need to give money to people who have earned it–not people who have not. When Congress recently did not extend the amount of time people could collect unemployment, unemployment went down. When you reward a behavior, it increases. We need to learn that lesson if we are ever going to cut government spending.

 

When The Government Controls Healthcare Bad Things Happen

When the government is allowed to decide what treatment is appropriate for medical problems, bad things happen. Yesterday Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted a story about one particular incident and a possible solution.

TRICARE is the military’s healthcare program. It covers military personnel, retirees, and military families for all branches of the military. Rep. Tom Cotton is co-sponsoring legislation to make sure our military and their families get the care they need.

The article reports:

H.R. 1705, also known as “Kaitlyn’s Law,” would make sure that Tricare covers doctor-prescribed therapeutic exercises or therapeutic activities. When the doctors and therapists treating a patient covered by TRICARE agree that a particular form of therapy is needed, and can justify their decision on medical grounds, the patient would receive reimbursement for that therapy.

Kaitlyn is the child of a military family. She has numerous physical problems that cause her to be incapable of speaking or walking by herself. One of these problems is severe scoliosis. Without effective treatment, the curvature of her spine is so severe that as it increases her bones will pop out of joint and she will eventually be crushed; The challenge for her family was finding effective therapy.  When conventional therapy failed, they eventually found something called “hippotherapy.” This involved riding a horse in circles to stretch her back muscles and force her to sit upright. The Pentagon decided that this was not a ‘proven’ therapy (despite the fact that it worked) and stopped paying for it.

The article continues:

In essence, then, the government takes the position that it will pay for physical therapy that wasn’t working for Kaitlyn, but won’t pay for the type of physical therapy that does work for her. And it took that position even as it admitted that there is reliable evidence supporting the value of “horse therapy.” In addition, Kaitlyn’s doctors presented sworn testimony as to its effectiveness on her.

Kaitlyn’s law would reverse this injustice, not just for her but for the many military families in need of need of hippotherapy, as well as other non-traditional modalities, such as a ball, balance board, barrel or bench. This tweak would not impose a new mandate on private insurance carriers. It would simply precludes military insurers from second-guessing the treatment choices made by doctors and therapists in the context of rehabilitative therapy.

Please follow the link to the article and read the letter submitted to Congress about this bill. We ask a lot of our military families–we need to take care of them.

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Why It Matters Who We Elect To Congress

On Friday Breitbart.com reported on President Obama’s attempts to raise fees military families pay for TRICARE, their medical plan. As the President claims to be trying to make heath insurance and healthcare affordable for everyone, he is attempting to raise the cost of healthcare for military families.

The article reports:

The Free Beacon notes that the bill that passed the House of Representatives, with bipartisan support, refused to incorporate the President’s request for higher TRICARE fees–and the administration has expressed displeasure.

The increased TRICARE fees were part of a defense appropriations bill. The President has threatened to veto the bill of the higher fees for TRICARE are not included in the bill.

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An Outrageous Policy Toward Our Military Veterans

Bill Gertz at the Washington Free Beacon is reporting today on changes proposed by the Obama Administration to the medical benefits of our military veterans.

The article reports:

The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.

The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.

I have already posted articles showing the difference between government workers pay and benefits and those of the private sector. (See Congressional Budget Office chart). Needless to say, military salaries are considerably lower than both. Why in the world would the President cut military benefits and not cut civilian defense department employees’ benefits?

The article further reports:

“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”

Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

This is an outrage. Additionally the plan calls for large increases in the cost of Tricare for military families.

The article states:

According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.

This doesn’t sound like much, but consider the sacrifices our servicemen and their families make during their twenty or more years of life in the military. The favoring of civilian union employees over the military is obscene. These changes have to be passed by Congress–any bill proposed needs to be dead on arrival.

 

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