Legion: Truncating TRICARE a misguided idea

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz has registered his disagreement with the viewpoint expressed recently by Washington Post writer Charles Lane on the subject of TRICARE for Life. In a March 25 editorial, Lane expressed opposition to maintaining the current premium rates paid by military retirees who are entitled to enrollment in the Department of Defense administered post-service military health care insurance program.

The editorial characterized TRICARE for Life as "bloated and untouchable." The writer advanced the argument that veterans do not deserve the special treatment that TRICARE’s current modest fee structure represents, especially in these times of fiscal crisis and at the theoretical expense of government aid to a broader range of citizens. Lane accuses senators and congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans, of being intimidated by veterans support groups and, thus, resisting proposals to raise TRICARE premiums.

Lane ended his editorial by saying, "I would note that I respect and honor America’s veterans. They should be well provided for, including reasonable health benefits. But no one – not even a veteran – is entitled to taxpayer support regardless of competing public needs."

Koutz responded to the editorial. "When discussing TRICARE for Life, or any other veteran’s benefit, one must understand the nature of service and the nature of the citizens who dedicate lengthy and often self sacrificing careers to the defense of our country," he said. "As the editorial writer admits, TRICARE serves as a valuable recruitment incentive, something needed vitally if we are to maintain an all volunteer fighting force. By extension, that the fact that only one percent of our citizens have heeded the call to service in our present 10-year long war would be indicative of the lasting worth – for life – of these extraordinary people.

"The American Legion’s view on TRICARE for military retirees and the premiums they pay is articulated best in Resolution 24 (passed during the 2012 National Convention in Indianapolis). The resolution states that The American Legion recognizes the debt owed to the entire military retirement community for their sacrifices and hardships endured in honorable military service to this nation. That is why we stand in opposition to TRICARE for Life premium increases."

The resolution also states that "Those who point to the disparity in cost between civilian and military health insurance, and hint at unfairness, simply do not appreciate the huge premiums already paid by the selfless service and sacrifice of our servicemembers and their families."

"I would hope that those who might wish to raise the TRICARE for Life health insurance premiums of military retirees will reconsider their views in light of these arguments," Koutz said.