Military Healthcare = Military Welfare? An article in the Wall Street Journal this week cited military health care as “welfare” and urged significantly higher TRICARE fees. That drew a feisty response from MOAA’s president, which the Journal printed.
MOAA Pushes Vet Legislation. MOAA was invited to testify before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Wednesday on a range of measures to strengthen oversight of the new GI Bill and protect military members’ reemployment and financial interests.
Military Healthcare = Military Welfare?
A June 11 article in the Wall Street Journal described military personnel and health care costs as a “welfare problem.”
In effect, it impugned the courage of House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders for failing to knuckle under to the huge Pentagon-proposed TRICARE fee hikes and for wasting money on “health care and pensions” that would be better spent on training and equipment.
That provoked a feisty response from MOAA President VADM Norb Ryan (USN-Ret), which the Journal also posted.
MOAA Pushes Vet Legislation
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Wednesday from government officials and service groups on 18 bills under the Committee’s purview. Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) emphasized the importance of the legislation for “ensuring veterans have every opportunity to jumpstart their careers when they separate from service” and to reinforce legal safeguards put in place to assist servicemembers and veterans.
Colonel Bob Norton (USA-Ret), MOAA Deputy Director of Government Relations, expressed MOAA’s strong support for GI Bill ‘watchdog’ legislation, including S. 2241 (Sen. Murray), S. 2179 (Sen. Webb, D-VA) and S. 2206 (Sen. Lautenberg, D-NJ). The bills would improve reporting standards, consumer education, outcome measures and compliance with Department of Education standards for all schools that receive GI Bill and military tuition assistance funding.
Norton cited the Administration’s recent Executive Order intended to improve government oversight of military and GI Bill programs and better differentiate schools that are providing quality credentials and service to vets vs. those focused mainly on reaping federal funds. He said these three bills would “go the next important step” by putting those requirements in law. Norton suggested that colleges themselves should focus on academic counseling, while the VA should focus primarily on benefits eligibility, health care access and non-academic counseling.
MOAA also endorsed several additional bills that would upgrade the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
S. 2299 (Sen. Murray), S. 3233 (Sen. Casey, D-PA) and S. 3236 (Sen. Pryor, D-AR) would strengthen the enforcement of employment and reemployment protections for members of the National Guard and Reserve. S. 3179 (Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI) would extend mortgage foreclosure protections to surviving spouses after the death of a military member and for other purposes.
Norton said the nation’s unprecedented reliance on the National Guard and Reserve is the primary reason why the USERRA and SCRA need to continually be reviewed and updated. Since Sept. 11, 2001, almost 850,000 reservists have been called to up on federal orders, and 264,000 Guard and Reserve members have served two or more tours of active duty.
MOAA also strongly supports S. 1852 (Sen. Merkley, D-OR), the Spouses of Heroes Education Act, which would allow Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for the surviving spouses of those who died in service since 9/11. Norton noted that surviving children of such servicemembers are entitled to the new GI bill, but “unfortunately, we have left behind about 7,000 surviving spouses with an inferior educational benefit.” He said the spouse often has the most urgent education needs to help provide for the family in the wake of a servicemember’s death. MOAA feels strongly that the nation can better honor the ultimate sacrifice of its fallen warriors by helping surviving spouses deal with the daunting challenges brought on by their catastrophic loss.
Other bills of interest endorsed by MOAA at the hearing include:
- S. 2246 (Sen. Boozman, R-AR). The TAP Modernization Act would authorize transition assistance program (TAP) pilot projects to test providing services at locations away from active duty bases.
- S. 1798 (Sen. Udall, D-NM). The Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011 would establish a registry to protect Armed Forces members’ health by documenting and tracking their exposure to toxic substances in combat theatre burn pits over time.