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Hearing of the Senate Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Service Committee -

Hearing

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senator GRAHAM. Very briefly. Thank you. I have enjoyed working with you and your staff. We have done a lot together. I think we have cleared 30 amendments, and a lot of good reforms around the UCMJ and the military court martial process about sexual assault. We have tried to be more friendly to families when it comes to their quality of life, given a sequestration world. So I am really pleased that 90 percent we agree on. The 10 percent we do not, we will just take to the full committee. And the areas of disagreement are on taking the chain of command out of sexual assault cases. I think we have got a bipartisan solution that would allow the chain of command to be held accountable. I do not think you can quite ever solve a problem in the military without the chain of command buying into it and being held more accountable. So there is an effort there, and we will take that up in full committee. And on the abortion front in DOD facilities, right now there is--no abortions are allowed except in the case of life of the mother, rape, and incest. There is a provision here that would allow elective abortions, but without government funding. I will be opposing that at full committee. But TRICARE fee increases, we did not adopt them. To our members, I know it is tough to go to veterans organizations and talk about increasing co-payments and fees, but TRICARE is, quite frankly, unsustainable. It is going to be up to 18 to 20 percent of the DOD's budget, just like Medicare and Medicaid is an entitlement that is just growing. Retiree benefits have to be looked at prospectively. If you retire at 38, you get half of your pay for the rest of your life. We are going to have to sort of think outside the box, but that is not in the proposal here. But I would say, Madam Chairman, that when it comes to TRICARE, that it is just unsustainable without reform. We have not increased premiums since 1995 but once, and it is really putting the military between health care benefits, retirees, and funding the force that exists today, and arming them, and buying the equipment. And I just would hope that we could at full committee look at adopting some of the Administration's proposals on co-payments and enrollment fees to make the program more sustainable. I think the Administration has a good proposal, and I would like to support it in full committee.


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