Last year, Congress approved funding for the largest VA budget in history. However, as the nation’s deficit continues to rise with no relief in sight, many legislators are beginning to question if the VA’s spending shouldn’t be reduced.
The Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, proposed to reduce the nation’s deficit and increase the Defense budget by raising the TRICARE fees of military retirees under the age of 65 who may also have access to health care through their civilian job and military pension. This group of military members has not seen a rate increase in 15 years. Under Gates’ proposal, health care rates for active duty service members would remain free, and rates for older retirees would remain untouched.
TRICARE has an annual cost of $19 billion which Gates believes is “eating the Defense Department alive.” Under his new plan, he believes he can save the military nearly $7 billion in five years. Other congress members are also interested in raising VA healthcare rates to improve other areas of the military.
“I remain committed to applying more fiscal responsibility and accountability to the Department of Defense,” stated Buck McKeon, the new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, “but I will not stand by idly by and watch the While House gut defense when Americans are deployed in harm’s way.”
Jeff Miller, the new Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is strongly opposed Gates’ proposal and refuses to support any decision to raise co-payments or prescription costs in VA pharmacies. He also refuses to agree with the raising of TRICARE fees, deductibles, or co-pays.
“There are significant cost savings that can be made before you ask the veteran to make another sacrifice,” he stated.
Although Miller agrees that Congress needs to ensure that the Veterans Affairs budget is being spent accordingly, he doesn’t believe we need to further ask Veterans to sacrifice by increasing the cost of their healthcare.
Photo thanks to James Cridland under creative common license on Flickr.