- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Once again, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has proposed an increase in health care premiums for military retirees and their families as a way to save money and cut the Department of Defense budget.

Mr. Gates explains that basic family health care costs $460 per year, a fee that has not increased since 1995. He does not explain that before 1995, military retirees did not pay the annual premium of $460, as military health care was an earned benefit for at least 20 years of service. Unfortunately, in 1995, military health care was changed from an earned benefit to something that is subject to change based on Congress, the Pentagon and the administration. Premiums for military health care should not be subject to the annual budget and appropriations process.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown, military service is not a civilian, 9-to-5 job in a typical office setting. Military personnel and their families are subjected to numerous tours of moving, unaccompanied duty and many assignments that most of the civilian population would never agree to accept. Only police, fire and emergency medical technicians come close to being exposed to conditions similar to military service.

I urge Congress and President Obama not to agree with Mr. Gates‘ proposal to save money on the backs of those who served in harm’s way and earned their benefits by sacrificing for America.

MARK H. OLANOFF

Chief master sergeant, U.S. Air Force (retired)

National president, Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association

Reisterstown, Md.


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