GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul on Tuesday said he opposed cuts to health care benefits for veterans and active military and called on Congress and the other GOP presidential candidates to support legislation he co-sponsored that would prohibit the Defense Department from increasing TRICARE health program fees without congressional approval.
“Our troops have paid a heavy price these past 10 years,” Paul said in a statement. “Over 5,000 have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, 40,000 have seen crushing injuries, and hundreds of thousands more suffer from brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.” Paul has repeatedly criticized the commitment of U.S. troops under Republican and Democratic administrations, and has said he would end U.S. wars overseas if elected president.
President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal (GovExec) includes new TRICARE co-pays and fees, which the administration projects would save the Defense Defense $12.9 billion in discretionary funding and $4.7 billion in mandatory savings on Medicare-eligible retiree health care over the next five years. However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said February 21 that the Defense Department is continuing to review the military’s health care structure.
The proposed cuts come amid administration discussions of how to shrink the Pentagon’s budget at least $487 billion over the next decade, and as a recent CFR Backgrounder notes, those discussions do not take into account an additional $454 billion in mandatory cuts that could hit the agency over the next decade under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Suggested Other Reading:
A recent Congressional Budget Office report looks at the costs of treating (PDF) post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries.
A November 2011 report from the Pew Research Center found that more than half of veterans it surveyed, who are experiencing physical and emotion wounds, think the government isn’t doing enough to help them.
Kaiser explains military and veterans’ health care programs in this background brief.
—Liriel Higa, Contributing Editor