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MOAA President Meets With New Top Pentagon Health Official

MOAA President Meets With New Top Pentagon Health Official
From left: MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret); Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs; and Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret.), MOAA's director of government relations, health affairs. (Photos by Bob Lennox/MOAA)

While MOAA council and chapter members have been supporting the Summer Storm initiative by visiting legislators in their home states, MOAA national has been meeting with DoD leaders.

The Defense Health Agency and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences have a newly confirmed leader. Thomas McCaffery was sworn in July 12 as assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, making him Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s eyes and ears of military health and MOAA’s chief ally in preserving military health care benefits for servicemembers, retirees, and their families.

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmaker to Protect Military Medicine]

On the day he was sworn in, MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), met with McCaffery at his Pentagon office to discuss MOAA’s primary concerns associated with DoD’s proposed reductions in military medical billets.

MOAA has made protecting military medicine from planned-but-unexplained manpower cuts one of its top issues during this year’s Summer Storm.

[RELATED: MOAA’s 2019 Summer Storm: Local Action for National Change]

During the discussion, Atkins emphasized the growing concern within the beneficiary community about how these reductions in medical personnel will ultimately result in both diminished military medical capabilities and create access to care issues for military families and retirees. He noted that retirees enrolled in TRICARE Prime at military treatment facilities (MTFs) are already being pushed into civilian networks where, in some cases, there is minimal provider availability. 

Both leaders agreed bases with MTFs in rural areas need more uniformed medical personnel due to the unavailability of civilian providers. 

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Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA President and CEO, left, speaks with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery, right, Aug. 12 in a meeting attended by Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret), MOAA's director of government relations for health issues, and Col. Rich Breen, USA (Ret), director of Strategic Communications and Outreach at Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

McCaffery understands MOAA’s push for the Congress to incorporate House language in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act halting any realignment of medical positions pending a Congressional review. In other words, holding the DoD accountable to provide the details and an analysis of the effects of these large-scale medical reductions. As MOAA Board Member and retired Surgeon General of the Navy Vice Adm. Mike Cowan stated in his recent commentary, “An almost 20% force reduction constitutes a qualitative change to the military health system which could cause unintended consequences impacting all types of medical care across America.”

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About the Author

Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, USN (Ret)

Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, USN (Ret.) retired in 2009 after serving 30 years. As a career Navy Nurse Corps officer, she served in a wide variety of staff and leadership positions within the Navy and DoD. She joined MOAA in 2009 and currently serves as director, health affairs.