- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Many of your readers may know this, but the Department of Defense is once again out to raise military retiree health care fees. I want to provide some perspective on the issue.

Two years ago, the department tried to raise health care fees for military retirees under age 65 as much as 400 percent in one year. Their rationale was that the department had health care cost deficits because the fees had been kept at 1995 levels.

Despite not looking for efficiencies in their own health care operations first, the Defense Department tried to saddle retirees with a quick fix at exorbitant costs. Fortunately, spurred by Military Officers Association of America and the other Military Coalition members, Congress denied the increases and sent the Defense Department back to the drawing board. The same situation occurred last year, and Congress once again recognized that fees should not be increased.

This year is a little different because the Defense Department is trying to raise fees for all military retirees, including those using Tricare for Life. Again, the fee increases for some could approach 400 percent, including in the pharmacy area. In fact, under certain circumstances, some military retirees would be better going to Wal-Mart for prescriptions than to the government that they served so honorably.

We don’t believe fee increases should be considered until the Defense Department exhausts all other potential cost-saving measures.

The health care fee issue is complex, but our people deserve better than a 400 percent fee increase.

Sincerely,

Retired Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr.

President, Military Officers Association of America

Dear Adm. Ryan:

Hopefully this is a cruel Defense Department April Fools’ joke on the men and women who have served in the fighting terror arena. As you and your fellow members of MOAA walk the halls of Congress this day, you may want to remind those who represent us of these words from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts;

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,

or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,

who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again;

because there is not effort without error and shortcomings;

but who does actually strive to do the deed,

who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion,

who spends himself in a worthy cause,

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,

and who at the worst, if he fails,

at least he fails while daring greatly.

So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls

who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Shaft notes

• Kudos to Linda M. Springer, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, for issuing the following call letter, thereby starting the process to ensure that federal employees, retirees and their families with visual impairments have access to audible prescriptions:

“Carriers should review their coverage for durable medical equipment (DME) in light of advances in technology for assistive devices designed for individuals with special needs; including vision, hearing, mobility and movement, and cognition. Examples include augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) products such as speech generating devices and audible prescription reading devices. Please provide a statement concerning your coverage for these types of benefits.”

• To support veterans and their families during major emergencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun to deploy mobile pharmacies that will provide vital medicine when patients are unable to fill their prescriptions. VA also will open the facilities to help communities during major disasters and other emergencies.

“The mobile pharmacies give VA the ability to provide critical medications to veterans when disaster strikes,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake. “VA is committed to ensuring our veterans receive their care and prescriptions as soon as possible during an emergency.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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