"Last year, the Obama Administration increased enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime beneficiaries for the first time since 1995," said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL). "My amendment will ensure the Administration does not implement a first-time-ever enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life Beneficiaries. 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 be cut. For example, we should limit funds to Pakistan before giving the Department of Defense (DOD) the option to raise costs on our veterans."
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 catastrophic cap of $3,000 per family. Added Stearns, "On April 17, 2012, I expressed opposition on the House floor to these proposals made by this Administration to raise such fees for our service-members and veterans. I quoted the President in a speech he gave about veterans being "short changed.' 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.'"
The House adopted the amendment by Stearns by a vote of 399 to 17 during consideration of H.R. 5856, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, which Stearns joined the House in approving. Although H.R. 5856 provides $519.2 billion for the DOD and $88.5 in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, the overall funding is $25 billion below last year's level. Explained Stearns, "The strategic withdrawal of U.S. forces allows us to reduce OCO funding by $26.6 billion from last year," explained Stearns. "This marks the third consecutive annual decrease in total DOD funding." The measure also includes a 1.7-percent pay increase beginning on January 1, 2013. It also has language prohibiting funding for transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or its territories, prohibiting funding to modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees, and placing conditions on the release of detainees to other countries.
The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Military Officers Association of America have endorsed Stearns' amendment.