”Listen up! Attention! Stay in for 20 or more years and you will earn free medical and dental care for the rest of your lives – delayed compensation for your substandard pay!”
From the 1940s to the mid-1990s, thousands of career military heard those words from those they took an oath to obey. A court case determined that Congress never authorized the promise, a dubious technicality given that Congress knew the promise was being made and did nothing to stop it. In the real world, this is commonly called fraud.
The government saved untold billions in recruiting, training costs and substandard payment for personnel. These savings could have been used to honor the promise. But “free” medical and dental care for military retirees and their dependents now cost them co-pays, enrollment fees, part B Medicare fees and supplemental insurance premiums.
Congress is moving to reduce entitlements. That promised free health care is “eating the defense budget alive,” according to the Pentagon. An increase in user costs appears a certainty.
The Pentagon budget need not be involved if Congress had the backbone to force the executive branch to abide by the original ruling of Congress that health care for retirees over 65 be funded by the Treasury. It took some slick trickery to force these costs on the defense budget, thus creating the justification for increasing user costs.
So much for government promises and government honor.