Military Retirees See Increased Health Care Costs

Health care benefits for retirees and their families - for life - has always been one of the biggest incentives for staying in the military

By Lea Sutton
|  Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012  |  Updated 11:05 AM PDT
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Retired Navy Master Chief Joe Brunner and Retired Admiral Norb Ryan talk to NBC 7 about the increase in cost of military health care. Lea Sutton reports

Retired Navy Master Chief Joe Brunner and Retired Admiral Norb Ryan talk to NBC 7 about the increase in cost of military health care. Lea Sutton reports

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The Department of Defense recently rolled out its budget proposal to cut costs after more than 10 years of war. But many military retirees feel they'll be taking the brunt of the hit.

Health care benefits for retirees and their families - for life - has always been one of the biggest incentives for staying in the military.

Many veterans feel betrayed by what they believe will be a broken promise if the proposed DoD budget is passed.

"My original contract with the Navy when I joined back in 1956, was if you make a career out of the military you will receive free health care for you and your dependents for the rest of your life.  I was told that the full 20 years that I was in”, said Joe Brunner, a Retired Navy Master Chief. 

Brunner and his wife are in pretty good health, but she's on heart medication and they're both in their 70's.  Brunner still works, but for how long he's not sure. 

"I will be paying a considerable amount of money for health care that I had not been paying in the past.  I can't tell you how bad the effect is going to be - I know it's going to impede my uh ability to do things", said Brunner.
               
Brunner is not alone.  All military retirees are bracing for increased costs of health care for themselves and their families.  It's one way the Pentagon plans to shrink its budget while maintaining a strong force.  The proposed budget will increase enrollment fees and deductibles for retirees under 65.
               
Retired Vice Admiral Norb Ryan is President of the nation's largest officers association.  He says some will pay four times more, over five years.

 "When you raise the fees over 5 years by 300%, you're really breaking faith with people who you said ‘you're going to get a good health care program if you stay with us for 20 or 30 years.’  Now they're breaking the rules and who are they picking on first? The people who have never let this country down:  the men and women in uniform."

Those like Brunner, who are over 65, will have to pay a new tiered annual enrollment fee - up to almost $500 by 2017. 

"They are forever trying to erode benefits.  And it's just betrayal.  We the retirees are at war with DoD all the time.  But we will never win", said Brunner. 

For these changes to take effect, the budget will still have to pass congress and be signed by the President.  The Military Officers Association of America is trying to prevent the increased costs, and has offered a link on their website that provides form emails retirees can send to their elected officials.
 

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