At War Over Military Health and Pension Benefits


The health and pension benefits of military retirees could be under heavy scrutiny in the near future. U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal, known as the Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction, will cut Medicare and Medicaid, and could also cost veterans, active duty service members, and their families by reforming some veterans benefits.

The plan calls for an increase in pharmacy co-payments for service members’ families and military retirees, an annual enrollment fee for military retirees over 65-years-old in the TRICARE program, and changing the retirement system into a version of a 401(k) plan. The only part of the plan affecting current personnel is the increase in pharmacy co-payments. TRICARE and retirement changes will only affect those who join after the plan takes effect.

According to The New York Times, military pensions and health care for active and retired service members cost the government about $100 billion a year. The drive by Congress to reduce the debt this year could result in trimming core programs like research, training and construction, and weapons procurement.

The Defense Department will be required under legislation passed this year to find about $900 billion in savings over the coming decade, and this emphasis on cutting costs could make military retiree benefits vulnerable.

Currently, service members who retire after 20 years are eligible for pensions that pay half their salaries for the rest of their lives. Lifetime health insurance through TRICARE is also offered, at minimal cost. This prompts many working veterans to often choose military insurance over employer health plans, something advocates of revamping military benefit systems argue is fiscally unfair to civilian citizens.

Veterans’ groups and military leaders argue that the health and retirement systems help retain capable commissioned and non-commissioned officers. They feel that these people volunteered to put their lives at risk, and that they deserve higher-quality benefits. Pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan could leave benefits open to attack because cutting benefits while the country was at war would have been political suicide.

Overall, the proposal would allow soldiers with less than 20 years of service to build up some savings through a 401(k) program, provided they served three to five years, thus spreading out funding and rewarding all volunteers. It would, however, prevent all retirees from receiving benefits until they are 60-years-old.

Given the political strength of veterans’ groups, it is unclear what success the proposed reforms will find. The Fleet Reserve Association has issued a statement opposing the recent White House proposal to reduce military health care and retirement benefits, but the pressure of an over-inflated federal budget could spell change for military retirement. Stay tuned to VA Benefit Blog for updates on this crucial issue.

23 thoughts on “At War Over Military Health and Pension Benefits”

  1. WHY cut health benefits when we have paid for them! My husband has fought 2 wars for his tricate (is he a cut Mr. Obama?) this is sad and I trule believe that cuts in your congressman and yourself paychecks is a better Idea. You might understand things diffently. Stop all the trip at the expense of tax payers and that would help the deficent as well. Government is CORRUPT!

  2. I do agree with President Obama that there needs to be an overhaul on health and retirement benefits. We need to start at the top, with every politician having their retirement and health benefits cut in the future because they damn sure didn’t earn them like the rest of us. But first we need to vote all of these thieving bastards out of office. It has always amazed me how they start with cutting retiree and military health and retirement benefits.

  3. Gloria Atteberry

    I am upset at the fact that Obama seems to try to cut back on veterans and seniors. We haven’t had a pay raise since 2008. Cutting more from us is going to cause more problems. Why not cut back on politicians raises or benefits. Why cut back on those causing more hardship? Why not cut back on the freebies to illegals in our country. Why are we spending billions now in Africa. We should be taking care of Americans that are on American soil.

  4. Until everyone on the “Hill”, the White House and all of the Senators and Congress persons change their retirement and health care system they should not change anything to do with the military and or medicare.

  5. Starlett Lanning, AZCM(AW/MTS), USN

    How grossly unfair to our men and women in uniform!!! There are so many places government could decrease spending without messing with pay for military. Has anyone considered the effects this will have on recruiting? Has anyone considered the effect of military members who live on minimum retirement from the VA and Social Security. Some of our military, who proudly served this country, will be forced to go without proper care because they can’t afford it…placing their health in potential jeopardy. I’m so blasted mad I can’t see straight!!! This seals my vote for anyone running against Obama…he’s done enough “for” our country…now, we need someone to fix it!!!

  6. Gloria Atteberry

    I am upset at the fact that Obama seems to try to cut back on veterans and seniors. We haven’t had a pay raise since 2008. Cutting more from us is going to cause more problems. How would he feel about no raises or no more money since 2008

  7. Gloria Atteberry

    Why cut back on veterans and seniors. We have not had a pay increase since 2008. What would Obama do or any other politician or person in high places do if they had no increase of pay since 2008. Yet everything has gone up, like the basics groceries, gas, health care, prescriptions, rent or housing, taxes. Why not take from those in congress who are voting or coming up with these ridiculous cuts to the wrong people.

  8. As long as I get what I was promised when I took my early retirement in 94, and they don’t mess with my VA benefits, I’m good. The sum total of my retirement and disability leave me at $1000 over the poverty line for a year. I don’t think anyone’s benefits should be changed from what they were when they signed up, but if they keep changing them every couple of years, there will be fewer people who will want to join the service. I suspect the reason we have some people joining is because there are no jobs elsewhere. I dare the Congress and Senate to live on a retirement like we have to.

  9. The first thing that should be cut is the pay and benifits of all congress and the senate. They are not in DC full time so only compensate them for the time they are in DC working. Save more money by cutting the staff of these IDIOTS take away the BIG SUV they use while at work.
    Stop all forign aid and that will save more than is needed to balance the budget. Seems everytime the Big shots in DC want to save money they want to cut military benifits or social security or VA benifits,

  10. Want to do some cutting? DoD Budget is filled with spending that NEVER should happen.
    $2.8Billioin for Pakistan
    $12.8 Billion for Afgan Security Forces (out of this $5,700,149,000 goes to Minister of Interior. Yea and it will help who?
    $0.5 Billion for Afgan Infrastructure Fund
    $0.5 Billion assistance for Iraq transition.
    $500 Million for Environmental Restoration (this amount is allocated for EACH branch of the military.

    This is but a drop in the bucket of waste included in the DoD budget. Now tell me why cuts have to be made in funding for those who have EARNED it.

  11. James A. Stewart

    I have been waiting for my benefits to be put in place since 22 Aug 83. There is the facts listed in my records that I was hit by a Jeep at Fort Ord, Ca., as well as a APC while station in Berlin. I was discharged with a P3 profile for no running over 1 mile a day in tennis shoes, no jumping, no bending, no lifting over 20 pounds, no marching over 3 miles per day, no stooping or kneeling. To sit, stand or walk when needed. I did not want out, but the Army was downsizing personnel then. Now you are telling me they are going to be downsizing the benefits before some of us can even enjoy them. Give them my thanks. What country is this anyway that treat their Vets this way? I have always said, The U.S. Army Is Going To Do Its Vets Right, well I was wrong. I wish my fellow Vets the best and that may God bless them. And may God Bless the United States of America.

  12. This will kill the prefessional Army as we currently know it? Who is the dumb ass that come up with this purposal? That person or persons name/names should be attached to the Bill.
    Butch See

  13. How the dare to cut our benefits, why don’t they cut their own? If they think this country is in crisis is gonna be worst if they cut our benefits, I served 26 yrs with many sacrifices made for my country, we are the ones putting our life’s on the line and the pay back is to cut our benefits? Not only this is wrong but is a disgrace for future military members, hope the think about it real hard

  14. i would lik to add that this is not right for us veterans,that has ben fighting for years just to get service connected,know you wont to cut off the rest of it to,i ve ben in the work force but had to retire becouse i was more dangerest working ,all started somewhere back there after the army,i cant work anymore,so i boild the US up,and they shoot me down,thats not right and you people in DC know that,but dont care,thats not right,i wont my service connected disibiley,you people in DC why dont ya,ll take a pay cut,come back down to earth,and see what it feels like,you new deficent isnt gonna work,has anything ya,ll done work or hurt americans,keep it up there wont be a america to hert,becouse ya,ll destoried it,leave us people alone,and start cutting in your own backyard

  15. Where is the loyalty and trust ?? Many of us retirees were told that if we made the military a career, we would get free medical care for the rest of our lives, we were lied to,we got shafted, now they are gonna shaft us again,by charging us a fee for Tri care for life,which we are not eligible for untill age 65,some of us didn’t make it to 65,everyone is’nt promised longevity. We all accepted the benefits offered,to serve our country and sacrifice our lives, while the sneaky,conniving,greedy,politicians sit in Washington and make laws and legislations that don’t effect them,if it’s good for the majority of us common Americans, it should be good for the minority that we put in office to represent us! Take care of HOME first !!

  16. There are so many ways our government can cut costs. Everyone is complaining about all cuts. I was Navy active duty and reserve, deployed twice as a Navy reservist and once as a DOD Civilian. Yes Congress & the Senate are overpaid and a bunch of dirty crooks. Shame on them for voting a raise every year, but cutting the pay of 435 members of Congress and the Senate really isn’t the answer. In all honesty I doubt changes to the military retirements will effect recruitment in this economy. They are turning people away now. I don’t claim to have the answers or all the information, but I do know there are thousands of government grants issued every year and those could stand to be looked at more closely. As a DOD civilian I absolutely support raising the pay in amount for my retirement. I currently pay $14.xx/ month for retirement after 30 years of service. I could stand to pay the $25 or $30/month that is proposed. The amount of money wasted for that fight is ridiculous. I have to say that I don’t agree with holding retirement until the age of 60 for military, but I have always thought that giving it for 20 years of service was a bit too easy. If you retire and are 100% healthy with no injuries, there is no reason why you can’t go out and be a productive part of society. I know my service is different from others everyone has a story and there are a lot of exceptions, but to join at 18, retire at 38 and be a leach on the system until the average age of 78… that’s not right.

  17. Are you all aware that around ten years ago, the military retirees in Florida won a class action suit against DOD for a full refund of premiums and copays for military care! The government shut up the press on it because, I am sure, once it got out, all 49 other states would follow suit. Free medical care after retirement my ass! The government has been in breach of promise for decades now and it sure doesn’t look like it will stop any time soon!

  18. I’m a 100% service disabled vet… I am a service connected U.S. Marine Window… I am a mother of two school aged kids and trying to figure out how to pay for thier college. I was promised free medical care… now I am forced to pay over $100 a month for medicare in order to keep my tricare benifits my husband paid for with his life. When my daughter goes to college the Tricare prime I pay for annually goes away and she will be forced to pay Tricare young adult which is over $100.00 a month… My prescriptions just went up… My daughter prescription went from $7. to $25.00… The premium for tricare prime will be going up… When I need the help most to keep the promise to my children of college and a future is when my government takes even more from me… When I called my representative and complained He told me “everyone must do thier share” Wasn’t my Husbands life our share? wasn’t being a permenent and complete disabled vet my share… How much more must my children give… They have made the most sacrifice… The college money from the state is gone? How do I tell my daughter sorry I cant afford to send you to college… How do I tell my son your fathers sacrifice wasn’t enough! Your mothers sacrifice wasn’t enough! Because we must do our share!

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