Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday defended the Pentagon’s plan to increase healthcare fees for military personnel as a senior House Republican called the increases another Obama administration “hit” on the military.
“On Tricare costs for health care, we have recommended increased fees,” Panetta said during a hearing of the House Budget Committee.
“We have not increased those fee levels since 1990,” he said. “We’ve looked at … the retirement area with the proviso that we grand-father those benefits so that those that are serving will not lose the benefits that were promised to them, but at the same time try to look at what reforms can be made on retirement for the future.”
Military pay will not be cut and pay raises are planned for the next two years but limited in later years, he said.
“That’s the package that we’ve presented,” Panetta said. “This has not been easy. This is a tough and challenging responsibility.”
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday criticized the Obama administration’s plan to cut healthcare benefits for both active duty and retired military service members.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R., CA) said some healthcare costs for military retirees will be raised 345 percent over the next several years and will include “means-tested” increases based on pay at retirement.
“It is just another hit on the military,” McKeon said on Fox News, commenting on a report published Tuesday in the Washington Free Beacon.
“You know, the military accounts for 20 percent of our overall budget, but 50 percent of the savings have come out of defense, and these people that have given so much for us … why are they to be singled out?” McKeon asked.
He also noted that civilian defense employees are not being hit with these same increases and are not being means-tested to gauge whether they can pay more.
McKeon said the military health care increases are a “fairness issue.”
“I don’t know why we just keep trying to solve our financial problems on the back of the military,” he said. “If we keep doing that, who will have our backs the next time we get attacked?”
Mr. McKeon, this administration is trying to solve our financial problems on the back of the military because they loathe the military.
It really is that simple.