There are several things you can always count on when it comes election time in Washington. You can be sure President Barrack Obama will want to take a big cut out of the military budget and he will pick up a large piece of that budget reduction from retired service personnel. You can count on the Democrats to follow his lead like sheep. You can count on the Senate Armed Services Committee to act against the military retirees of the country. Most of all, you can count on Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman and long serving Democrat from Michigan to find something in the budget for military retirees that is too expensive. The next thing you can be sure of is Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican member of that committee, will be all over the map when it comes to veteran and retiree issues.
These two esteemed political careerists have combined forces to advocate for Tricare for Life enrollment fees starting at $200 now and escalating by another $100 the following year. These fees will then escalate annually for the Tricare for Life services that were voted into law for military retirees over age 65.
This law was passed following decades of litigation that ended up in the Supreme Court. The retirees have always contended that across their many years of military service the country has promised them that if they served in uniform faithfully for twenty or more years, they would be provided earned health care for life. The Supreme Court ruled that even though the armed forces had repeatedly made such promises and that these promises were known in the highest offices of the nation, there had been no legislation passed to make the promises either legal or binding. Not long after this an embarrassed Congress passed Tricare for Life into law. It was not a law that corrected the nation's decades of lying to its career military personnel, but it was a token part of the promise. Tricare for Life is a supplement to Medicare. Even though the military retiree must enroll and pay the premiums for Medicare at age 65, he or she does now have the promised earned healthcare coverage that takes care of those costs Medicare does not assume.
But, Carl Levin, a man who has never worn the uniform of his country, thinks those aged military warriors have too much of a gravy train. Joined in his crusade by the Arizona Senator McCain whose strange view seems to be that everything legislative has originated in the Washington Pork Barrel, is taking his shot at the same military retirees of which he is a member. The only difference is most of those warriors don't have millionaire wives to pick up the cost of their enrollment fees.
Veterans and military retirees are always easy targets for the political elite in Washington. You can almost count on some politician bringing up a bill to cut benefits for members of the warrior clan during any election cycle. In a country of 330 million people, only about ten percent of that population has ever seen any type of military service. Less than 1% made the armed forces their career. Added to these figures are the small numbers of veterans and retirees who belong to organizations such as the American Legion or the VFW. Younger veterans do not seem inclined to join groups, while the older members are passing from this life in record numbers. Thus, with little organization and a Department of Veterans Affairs that does little in the way of fighting for veteran and retiree rights, politicians have almost a free reign when it comes to attacking those who served with honor.
The political parties in power do their best to make sure the 43 million Americans on food stamps receive their financial allotments in a timely manner. They make sure the 16 to 18 million children of unwed mothers in America continue to receive needed welfare aid.
Then they quickly ignore the 25% of veterans who are homeless. Washington never sees the millions of under clothed, hungry and hopeless veterans that constantly roam the streets of our nation. They rely on the generous citizens of this country to provide supplemental care and benefits for our wounded warriors, because politicians refuse to give these heroes of wars which were politically created, the medical care they require and deserve.
The list of wrongful treatment of veterans and retired military personnel by the political class could go on forever. It must end. The way to make that happens is for more and more veterans to seek political office. With less than 40 members of Congress having worn the uniform of this nation, they will never understand the veteran or care about the well being of our nation's warriors.
Thomas D. Segel