There have also been other benefits that have seen their time on the chopping block, but avoided elimination. The one that sticks out most in my mind was our Commissary benefit. For those who are unaware, on nearly all bases there is a grocery store that falls under military control. It is staffed and managed at the store level by civilians, mostly dependents, and is controlled at the upper levels by military and senior level civilians. This benefit is a real treat for most of us because costs are lower than at Safeway and other similar stores. These savings are achieved in three ways. 1) Buying power, which is not unlike what other large chains also do; 2) profits, which are not a consideration. The stores have to make enough to pay staff and obviously purchase stock, but there are no share-holders to answer to; and 3) unions. There are no unions in the commissary driving up operating costs. For my family, we probably average about $200.00 in savings each month.
Recently, the drive to cut costs all across the board in the federal government has brought about talk that would eliminate one of most cherished benefits. Sadly, this talk is coming from someone who in the past has been one of our most ardent supporters; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. McCain is talking about eliminating TRICARE For Life for working-age retirees. TRICARE is a very inexpensive health care plan that is used by all military; active duty, dependents, and retirees and their families. For those on active duty, there is no cost; for the retiree, there is a small annual premium.
Needless to say I am feeling a sense of betrayal for Sen. McCain and others who feel that since we are volunteers we should just shut up and accept our fate. I have been affiliated with the military for 28 and half years. During those nearly three decades I have seen our health care benefit erode, from free for all to a payment system for retirees, to now the possibility of losing the benefit entirely. Not making me a happy camper.
To the people who say that I am a volunteer and should take it a keep my mouth shut I say the following:
Yes, I was a volunteer, but just because I and many others volunteered, including fighting several wars from Panama, to Iraq, doesn’t mean we should have to take a long stick up the a$$ to balance the budget. There are many others who are receiving benefits from the taxpayer who have contributed absolutely nothing to our nation. How much taxpayer money has been wasted on food stamps and poverty programs, yet poverty is actually growing with more than 50 million below the poverty line.
When I first joined in the early eighties, health care was for life and it was for free, including dental and vision. This was changed 20 some-odd years ago. Now they are considering eliminating the health care benefit entirely. And it will be entirely as we will get pushed into MEDICARE/CAID. After we retire, the military will wash their hands of us, those people who VOLUNTEERED 20+ years of their most productive time of their lives to protecting this nation. What an awesome “Thank you for your service” parting gift.
Lastly, in case you haven't heard, veterans are having a more difficult time finding work than the general population. The one thing we have to offer, other than the obvious, is that with TRICARE, we can offer the employer a savings by not joining their health care plan. This might give a veteran an edge when it comes down to the final decision.
I am well aware that our TRICARE benefit package is one of the best out, when comparing cost to the user. We are very lucky that our premium is so low, especially compare to other plans that have similar benefits. Saying that, I am one who would not be opposed to seeing an uptick in our costs, but keep this in mind when you compare Mr. and Mrs. Civilian to the military veteran. There is no other job in which the employee is asked to put his and her life on the line on a daily basis. Some will say cops and firemen. Yes, those are very dangerous jobs, and my hat is off to them. But even during times of peace, the death rate among service members is higher, due to training accidents, than the cops or firemen. Throw in a shooting war or two, and the comparison can stop because nothing even comes close.
So yes, we volunteered, but why is that an excuse, to you, to have a promise yanked?
If you are a veteran, and especially if you are not, and would like to help prevent these hard-earned benefits from being eliminated, please contact your congressional Representatives and Senators.