• December 21, 2014

Budget cutbacks shouldn’t target military, retirees

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Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 5:00 pm

The need to trim the military’s budget has been a hot topic in the news for much of the past year — and both lawmakers and Pentagon officials have acted to do just that.

But two recently enacted cuts are likely to negatively affect our soldiers, veterans and military retirees — and that just doesn’t seem right.

Thursday night, the Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that funds the government through September and effectively avoids a government shutdown. The House passed the measure Wednesday. It includes almost $9 billion in unrequested money for overseas military and diplomatic operations to help ease Pentagon budget shortfalls.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is the bill includes a provision that trims pensions to working-age military retirees, starting in December 2015. The pension cut trims 1 percentage point off the annual cost-of-living increase for military retirees under the age of 62.

Disabled veterans and surviving military spouses were exempted from the pension cut, which is expected to save an estimated $6 billion over a 10-year period.

It’s true the provision doesn’t cut actual pensions; it merely reduces rate of increase, but it still results in money not received. Military groups estimate that the reduction could cost an E-7 about $83,000 by the time he or she qualifies for retirement with a pension.

Indeed, there can be no doubt that current and former military personnel and their families will feel the impact — and it’s likely to be significant over time.

Similarly, our local soldiers, retirees and their families will be negatively impacted by another budget-cutting measure announced last week — the planned closing of the Fort Hood Tricare office.

Beginning April 1, Tricare users will no longer have the opportunity to discuss their insurance coverage with a representative at the Tricare Service Center, just outside of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on post. The service center is one of 189 such centers that will cease operations as part of a Pentagon initiative to save $250 million over the next five years.

A Pentagon spokesman told the Herald the change would not affect medical benefit or health care service, but it’s hard to see how that’s possible.

The Fort Hood Tricare office, operated by Humana Military, employs 10 people and serves about 3,000 visitors each month, on average, a Tricare spokesman said.

That means that as of April 1, about 100 people each day will no longer be able to discuss their Tricare insurance issues with a representative face-to-face.

The spokesman said most of the visits to the Fort Hood center involve in- and out-processing and enrollments, all of which will be available by phone as of April 1. General customer service, billing and claims inquiries also will be available by phone, the spokesman said.

That’s all well and good, but it must be acknowledged that dealing with a customer service representative by phone doesn’t always yield the same results as an in-person encounter.

The pension COLA reduction and Tricare office closures are vivid examples of how cutting budgets at the federal level affects people here at home.

Both Congress and Pentagon officials are to be commended for recognizing the need to reduce spending and save money where possible.

However, attempting to balance the budget on the backs of our military members, our veterans, our retirees and their families is not an acceptable path to follow.

Our service members put their lives on the line for this country, and their families have sacrificed greatly in support of their loved ones. Reducing pensions and eliminating in-person service for military insurance issues is hardly the way we should repay their efforts.

Our local congressmen, John Carter and Roger Williams, should lead the effort to restore the pension adjustments for our younger retirees at the earliest possible date. Similarly, Pentagon planners should try to find other areas to shave $250 million from the budget.

Our service members, our retirees and their families simply deserve better.

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5 comments:

  • Bubba posted at 2:07 pm on Wed, Feb 26, 2014.

    Bubba Posts: 756

    Every department of our government has a degree of waste. The issue at hand is balancing our national budget by betraying our veterans, voiding promises made, and gouging retirees to pay bills.

     
  • CylonFixer posted at 3:04 pm on Fri, Feb 21, 2014.

    CylonFixer Posts: 1

    To be fair, the DoD is one of two of the largest chunks of our annual budget. Unfortunately, this is only what is made visible to most of us and to most members of Congress. The whole chunk of the 'black ops' budget, regarded as costing nearly 50 billion by some estimates are not included in the office of budget (White House branch).
    I served in the Army for 18 years (in numerous conflicts) and recently got out. Did not retire. Service disability is quite small compared to most of my peers. Those of us that served and continue to serve know that there is a GREAT deal of waste in the DoD.

     
  • Smithjr38 posted at 2:33 pm on Tue, Jan 28, 2014.

    Smithjr38 Posts: 114

    Getting the short end of the stick for the military is standard operating procedures for both parties in D.C.And so is giving the big and fat end of the stick to lobbyist is also SOP for both parries in D.C.

    And both parties have mis read Lincoln's Gettysburg address to read a nation of the Lobbyist by the lobbyist for the lobbyist .) notice that the lobbyist of the Military industrial complex is not on the chopping block?) so the tax payers is stuck with equipment that is not up to a war with China but puts money into members of congress pockets.

    So what is needed is a new party and even a new nation as the Supreme Court ruled via ACA that the Commie manifesto has now replaced the Constitution.

    So lets military from a new party that will succeed from the USA and have our own congress,Supreme Court and judges and work for the freedom and prosperity of the new nation . The New Confederate Nation.

    Notice how the positions of Slavery have changed since Abe was president .
    Abe wanted to free people the new US government under Obama wants to enslave we the people to Obama policies and enforce policies that make the US Slaves to those polices .for the glory of global warming Just as Stalin did in Russia a government run policy that end the end met only Stalin had food to eat and the rest of Russia like us military retirees got the short end of the stick.

    Since the folks of both parties do not want the vote of us retired military We need to create our own party that enforces our devotion to Freedom and Prosperity . And a party where our children our own most valuable assets. and not gays or guns. as both parties in D.C.clam.

    We have a lot of talent even whom can do a better job for American than those clowns in D.C. So lets start our own party and Nation NOW. The new Confederate Nation which is anti slavery to the dam Government and freedom for the people to prosper. and not be punished.

     
  • tomintexas posted at 10:36 am on Fri, Jan 24, 2014.

    tomintexas Posts: 42

    A while ago I submitted a response to articles such as this. Following are some excerpts that still apply.
    "Everywhere one turns today, the universal individual and collective complaint seems to be about excessive government spending accompanied by belligerent demands for reductions. (I share their discontent, but my complaints are qualified: They specifically address the costs for two senseless wars that the U.S. was seduced into by its own administration; the payola to "good buddy" civilian contractors in those theaters of combat; the circuitous and deceptive bailout of corrupt banks via absolute guarantees for AIG's obligations; and an exorbitant Medicare subsidy of the multinational drug cartel and big prescription benefits "managers" in return for political contributions.)

    ...and...(with respect to increases beyond and above Pentagon requests accompanied by simultaneous cuts in retiree benefits)... "Obviously there is a lot of fluff in government spending; however, the problem with government actions, including spending cuts, is that they are seldom precise, and they are invariably influenced by corporate money and political self-interest. Routinely what needs to be cut is left intact - or even further subsidized - and important essential services are slashed."

    ...and..."Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it."

     
  • Scot posted at 5:47 am on Fri, Jan 24, 2014.

    Scot Posts: 7

    So happy to see the KDH starting to take a positing on this and calling on our local Congressmen to take steps to reverse the broken promise with the Nation's veterans.