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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment that prohibits funds made available through this act to implement a new enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries.

The Department of Defense may have the authority to raise fees and implement new enrollment fees unless specified by Congress prohibiting such authority. Last year, through the FY 2012 DOD authorization and appropriations process, the administration increased enrollment fees for TRICARE prime beneficiaries for the first time since 1995. My amendment will ensure the administration does not implement a first time ever enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries.

For fiscal year 2013, the administration proposed additional fees and cost-sharing increases, a new annual enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life, aggressive increases in pharmacy copayments, and a cap of $3,000 per family.

On April 17, 2012, I expressed my opposition to these proposals that were made by this administration on the House floor to raise such fees for our servicemembers and veterans. I quoted the President in a speech he gave about veterans being ``shortchanged.'' Then Senator Barack Obama said on May 18, 2006: ``When a young man or woman goes off and serves the country in the military, they should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect when they come home.'' Mr. President, this is at least one thing I can fully agree with you on.

Passage of this bill will mark the third consecutive annual decrease in total DOD funding, including Overseas Contingency Operations, since FY 2010. I understand budget cuts need to be made and obviously we need to get our fiscal house in order, but, my colleagues, we owe our veterans quality health care for their service and their sacrifice. We promised to take care of our troops when they came home. As a veteran myself, I can appreciate knowing that our country's support for our troops is not limited to strictly the battlefield.

It is unconscionable that this administration seeks to raise health care costs on more than 9.3 million veterans and their families that are currently eligible for TRICARE when there are other excesses that can surely be cut. For example, we should limit funds to Pakistan before giving DOD the option to raise costs on our veterans. We heard adequately yesterday on Members' opposition to Pakistan for closing supply routes since November 2011 that are necessary for providing our troops in Afghanistan necessary supplies and resources. So I ask Members of this Congress to consider alternative avenues to cut spending before we require 3.3 million veterans that are eligible for TRICARE for Life to sacrifice even further.

I'd like to submit for the Record letters of support from the Veterans of Foreign War, VFW, and the American Legion for my amendment prohibiting funds from this act to be used to implement an enrollment fee for the TRICARE for Life program. The Military Association of America also is in support of this effort.

Mr. Chairman, the administration's proposal to increase health care costs on our military represents a very serious breach of faith, as it taxes the oldest cohort of military retirees and their families.

So I conclude by asking my colleagues to support my amendment. By doing so, we honor the promises made to our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for the freedom that we all enjoy.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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