David A. Bryant

I recently sat down with U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who talked with me about the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act — the military budget.

Fort Hood is part of Carter’s district, so he actually takes the time to find out our concerns — and I have found it rare indeed to have a sitting U.S. congressman willing to take time out of his schedule to actually talk about those concerns and issues.

One thing that struck me about this interview was the still very-real possibility of our future soldiers having to pay a premium for their health care. And the reason why the congressman said it could be very necessary in the future.

When I asked why the House would even consider making the very troops they send into harms’ way pay for their health care, even for combat injuries, his answer was simple — the Affordable Care Act.

He said “Obamacare” was supposed to drive the cost of health care down. Instead, it drove the costs so high that the military is dipping into its training budget to cover for it. Since Congress can’t seem to agree to increase the budget — or find a way to drive costs back down — that money needs to come from somewhere.

And it usually comes out of the pocket of the troops.

What will it do to recruiting and how will it affect morale?

I will take on morale, first. Troops currently serving would not be required to pay the premium. So when young privates and second lieutenants show up who are losing money out of their paycheck for health care while their superiors are not, what do you tell them? How do you keep them from being resentful?

I believe the term “suck it up, cupcake” isn’t quite going to work. And when the mothers of America start complaining to their congressmen and senators, how long do you think it will take before every soldier starts paying a premium, and that premium is based upon rank and time in service?

With it looking like we’ll see a $15 minimum wage before a decent pay raise for the military, recruiting will quickly become an issue. Why pay for your health care, making less than $18,000 a year, with the possibility of being sent to some hell-hole where you risk your life, limbs, eyesight and sanity? Instead, you could make $30,000 a year flipping burgers and get assistance for health care while you’re at it.

The congressman assured me that if the minimum wage went up, troop pay would follow. However, to make pay comparable, the government would have to nearly double the pay of every single person serving.

If we can’t get money for health care, how long will it take our government to double personnel costs?

Think about it a bit. Then start emailing your congressman and senators. Because once Pandora’s Box is open, it will be nearly impossible to shut it.

David A. Bryant is an Army retiree and the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at dbryant@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7554.

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