Growth in the defense budget has led Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to seek savings across the department. Two of the most treasured benefits of military service, health care and retirement pay, are considered primary targets for cost reductions. Two influential voices have assailed these forms of compensation without the perspective they deserve.
A month before his transition to civilian life, then-Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen said “something needs to be done about [Tricare premiums].” His statement, reported by Otto Kreisher in the 3 May 2010 Congress Daily, was a reaction to the $465 annual premium Allen would pay for medical coverage for himself and his wife. Tricare premiums are clearly inexpensive, but they are still above zero, the level that many correctly argue veterans were promised and deserve.
Regardless of past promises, Admiral Allen’s statement must be taken in context. At the time he enrolled in Tricare, he was expecting about $10,000 in monthly retirement pay. Like every other retiree, he earned his retirement, but his income is an unfair gauge of relative insurance costs for most retired servicepeople.