VSOs: The time to stop proposed TRICARE cost increases is NOW

Eric Dehm
June 22, 2018 - 2:07 pm

ConnectingVets.com Photo Illustration

As ConnectingVets reported last week, there are proposed changes to TRICARE currently awaiting the approval of the Senate Armed Forces Committee that, if approved, will lead to significant cost increases to retirees and their families via annual enrollment, increased copays and deductibles.

This comes just over five months after those who served before Jan. 1, 2018 were promised they would be exempt from the higher costs, which would only be applied to those who came on duty on or after Jan 1, 2018.

It's now believed that these changes may make it out of the committee, with bi-partisan approval, in as little as two weeks. That would mean legislation on the issue could be passed in a matter of months, according to AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly.

"Right now, we're still trying to figure out how much of a chance it has," Chenelly said during an appearance on the Morning Briefing radio show. "Unfortunately, in the past week here we've come to the conclusion this has a very good chance of passing. It would be one of those things that would get done by the end of the summer, which doesn't leave us much time in the lobbying world."   

This rapid change of position, and the rather quiet way in which it's being discussed by the Senate, doesn't seem to be sitting well with any of the Veteran Service Organizations. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, and AMVETS have significant presences and voices on Capitol Hill, and those voices are all in agreement that the proposed changes are unacceptable. 

“Congress must stop changing the terms of its deal with its retirees,” said Carlos Fuentes, Director of VFW’s National Legislative Service. “Every year we are told that there will be no new fee increases and every year we find ourselves pushing back against them. We are urging our members to contact the House and Senate Armed Forces Committees to ask them not to make these changes to retiree benefits.”

The Legion's views on the matter line up closely with VFW.

“The American Legion is adamantly opposed to the Senate’s NDAA position of raising Tricare enrollment fees and copays and repealing current grandfathering provisions." the Legion said in a statement to ConnectingVets.com. "We view the Senate’s proposal as an erosion of our veterans’ quality of life and earned benefits. It’s a slap in the face that the Senate would attempt to change the terms of veterans’ benefits by unfairly burdening them and their families with higher healthcare costs. Our military retirees endured 20 to 30 years of arduous and hazardous service in foreign countries – often in hostile environments. They deserve better than this.”

So, what can be done? According to Chenelly, a grass roots movement is likely the only thing that can stop this, and it needs to happen fast. According to the Marine Corps veteran, if the proposal makes it out of the armed forces committee in two weeks as he predicts, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to stop. 

"We need to stop it in committee," Chenelly said. "We need everybody to contact their senators right away and let them know they do not support balancing the budget on the backs of retirees."

All three organizations say that whether you are a member or not they are willing to provide assistance to those looking to contact their senators. 

VFW requests you e-mail their Service Officers program at vfw@vfw.org

AMVETS asks that you contact Legislative Policy Advisor Amy Webb at AWebb@amvets.org

The American Legion's legislative branch can be reached via this contact form

to their elected officials. 

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