Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today chaired a hearing of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services to receive testimony on active, reserve, and civilian personnel programs. Senator Webb has questioned the administration's proposed TRICARE fee hikes that would begin in fiscal year 2013, particularly for those who are covered under TRICARE For Life.
"I've said many times that I believe that whether there is a specific contractual obligation or not, when someone has served a full career, we have a moral obligation to provide them with lifetime medical care," said Senator Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy and as the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.
Jo Ann Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and Director of TRICARE Management Activity, both concurred with that principle.
Senator Webb agreed with the assertion of Robert Hale, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer, that the DoD must develop a comprehensive package in terms of the costs of health care, training, and equipment. However, he took exception with DoD's plan to increase costs for retirees who have already completed a career of military service.
"You can't renegotiate the front end once the back end is done," Senator Webb said, referring to the proposed TRICARE fee hikes. "This is an obligation that has been made to people whose military careers are now done."
Citing the chart below, Senator Webb also raised concerns about the costs that military retirees incur when they are required to enroll in Medicare Part B at age 65 in order to obtain TRICARE For Life coverage.
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"For a retired servicemember who wants TRICARE For Life, a DoD benefit, they are required to sign up for Medicare B," said Senator Webb. "When we summarize the cost of TRICARE For Life, we don't take the cost of Medicare Part B and apply it when you are looking at the health care costs inside DoD, right?"
"That's correct," said Woodson.
Rooney also confirmed to Senator Webb that the Department of Defense will continue to reduce or eliminate flag and general officers to meet the reduction goal by 2016. Senator Webb held a hearing in September 2011 to address the disparate levels of general and flag officers among the services.