As a retired military veteran, it has caused great concern to me and countless others what this government has done to veterans in the area of health care.
Those who are disabled and need to go to the VA are routinely ignored, or given appointments up to six months in advance, or totally ignored all together. Those who are not disabled, and retired after at least 20 years of service, are routinely given more and more obstacles to the health care that we are promised. To start, a little history is required.
In 1995, Hillary Clinton was put in charge of a disastrous health care policy. The program itself was turned down by Congress, but certain parts were allowed to slip through. One part that caused great damage to veterans was the limiting of health care. One of the lawyers working on this was a gentlemen by the name of Phillip Earl Jones from San Antonio. Along with his partner Sean Campbell took the case to the Federal Court.
Mr. Jones also discussed the challenge of trying to revive the health care that veterans were promised with Tom Brokaw on the “Fleecing of America" in January of 2001. The case (Bothard,et.al vs DOD and DOJ) was scheduled to arrive at the D.C. Court of Appeals when Mr. Jones and Campbell were approached by a few senators who wanted to discuss with them “Tricare for Life”.
“Tricare for life” was to be a program that continued to make sure the veterans received the benefits that they deserve. In a handshake deal, the case was dismissed among all involved. What was not discussed was that to obtain “Tricare for Life” veterans were required to purchase Medicare Part B at a cost of $216.00 a month. So it still costs more money that many veterans, including myself, can afford to pay.
In 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals reached an astonishing decision that military veterans have no legal standing and the U.S. Government could break the promise made to them and was not liable to provide lifetime health care.
More well known is the case brought by Colonel George “Bud” Day USAF, Ret. In his case, Col Day makes the argument that the decision is misguided and should not punish military veterans for budget waste that the government is responsible for. The Department of Defense, mostly non veteran bureaucrats has willfully breached a contract with Americas veterans. Tricare for life has been tied to a mandatory payment to Medicare Part B and costs many of our older veterans up to $3,600 which they had been promised since the day they joined. Many of our older veterans, many with disabilities, have been forced to leave military hospitals and forced to rely on Medicare.
July 1996: Plaintiffs file suit for monetary damages in Federal District Court in Pensacola, FL., charging age discrimination, 5th amendment taking of property and breach of contract. June 1997: District Court dismisses plaintiffs’ claim of age discrimination, but agrees to hear further argument on their 5th amendment taking of property and breach-of-contract theories. August 1998: District Court denies plaintiffs’ entire petition. December 1998: Plaintiffs appeal to US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Washington, D.C. March 2000: Federal court hears oral arguments of the parties. February 2001: Three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, Washington, DC overturns the district court decision. Finds that military retirees who entered service before June 7, 1956, had been promised free lifetime health care in return for a career of military service and were due compensation of up to $10,000 each for the government’s failure to live up to that promise. June 2001: Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, Washington, DC agrees to a rehearing before the full (en banc) court. March 6, 2002: Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, Washington, DC hears oral argument in the case. November 18, 2002: Current court ruling affirming the US Government position that military retirees have no legal standing to receive the medical care promised.
The government had no problem admitting that the promises were made, and even in writing in the manuals provided to the Marine Corps and Navy. It was the Department of Defense that convinced the courts that the assurances were not backed up by formal law. Even the judges that ruled against the veterans were discomforted by the decision. These judges claimed “we can only hope that Congress will make good on the promises made in good faith”. The dissenting judges were even more forthright: “Our veterans were told, if you disrupt your family, work for low pay, endanger your life and limb, we will in turn guarantee lifetime health care. There is no doubt the government made the offer.”
Tricare for Life, first incorporated in 2001 as part of the Managed Care Support Contracts in 2001. It was enacted by Congress to complaints to assist in the payment of rising out of pocket costs to veterans and did not require retirees to pay for Medicare. The small clause that is not discussed by Congress, once again is the mandatory purchase of Medicare Part B to be eligible for Tricare for Life. So although there is not cost for Tricare for Life there is a cost involved.
Changes have been made to the US Code that covers military health care. The U.S. Code used to read “shall provide” authorized and established free health care. In December 1956, the wording was changed to “may” provide heath care. In 1966, congress created CHAMPUS while changing the law to keep veterans from using active duty Military Treatment Facilities. It was in 1994 that Congress established Tricare and cancelled all health care for retirees over 65, forcing them to spend money many of them do not have on Medicare.
Major Commands, recruiters, Unit Commands and from the Secretary of Defense on down all made promises that they have broken to veterans that have given a major portion of their lives to the country. The promise of never having to worry about health care costs for a lifetime was a selling point for reenlistments and career choices. Today, there is a deep resentment of this government by veterans to those who have spent years lying to those who protect our country. The low wages that active duty were paid was dismissed as something they must endure to get the free health care they were promised, a promise that those who have never served broke for budget purposes without thinking of the damage done to the veterans involved.
Doctors are opting out of Medicare and Tricare because once again the government has cut the payments to doctors to the point where they lose money by assisting veterans. Once again, the government also wants to raise co-pays and enrollment fees that military veterans pay. There is more, but let’s see what the candidates have to say. The question is, how can veterans have any faith in a government that lied to them. The numbers of those willing to join the military will dwindle as word gets out further that this government does not stand by its military retirees, but will spend billions of giving illegal aliens everything they need to live well.
All veterans: I have discussed this with Mr. Phillip Earl Jones who along with Bud Day filed court proceeding in Texas about 15 years ago.
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