posted on March 08, 2011 15:21
Reminder, conference registration and info are on the web. Please register early and please sign up for the Wednesday event at the World War II museum. The Southeast Region has set up a great day for us but we need to get an early idea about who will attend. See you there!
March has begun with a roar! Budget time in the Pentagon is always busy but this year with no FY11 budget yet while testimony is being given on the 12 budget there is a lot more churn than usual. The CNO and the Secretary have been making speeches about the deleterious affect of continuing resolutions on our shipbuilding yards and their employees.
Last week I had an office call with VADM Clingan (N3/5). The day before I had attended a briefing by RADM John Roberti, Deputy Director for Plans and Policy (J-5) on the joint staff. The briefing concerned the National Military Strategy, a document that by law must be reviewed every two years. In 2010 it was decided that it needed actual updating. These are important documents, this one being the only one that belongs to the Chairman.
On the second, Kenya and I attended a luncheon of the American Society of Naval Engineers to hear Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) speak. The Senator is the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower. While there we signed up a couple of people to attend our Navy Now Forum event. Immediately after that event I went over to the Capitol to attend the latest VSO roundtable hosted by Leader Pelosi. It was a good meeting as always and well attended by associations. We are always there to put in our two cents for you. Unfortunately some Navy associations that tell their members that they work legislation never attend where the real work is done. After that two and a half hour meeting I represented us at the Jewish War Veterans Association annual awards reception.
On Thursday I attended a wonderful ceremony in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes. VADM Debbink and FORCE Wright had invited all the former FORCE Master Chiefs to town for the Navy Reserve Birthday celebration. We heard from today’s Sailors about what these fine men had done during their careers. It was a great event. That afternoon CAPT Puzon and I attended a meeting at the TRICARE Management Activity office to hear Assistant Secretary of Defense Jonathan Woodson speak about the proposed DoD changes to retirees health care. This was the second such meeting and won’t be the last. Once again we are always there to represent you but not all associations are. This is a message you should spread.
Friday of last week was the Navy Reserve Birthday celebration at the Navy Memorial. We sponsor this event and raise money from other associations for it as well. It is always a good event and the Vice Chief, ADM Greenert attended as well as CNP, VADM Ferguson. Afterward I hurried over to the Rayburn House Office Building for a meeting with senior Professional staff of the House Armed Services Committee. The discussion concerned the TRICARE changes as well as other personnel issues. The committee is trying to craft their arguments for the floor of the house and again we were there to make
an input for you.This week President Moon will join us as Ike and I go over to the Senate offices to present Senator McCain with our legislative award.
Thank goodness this week will be a bit slower than last because we have an internal Golf committee meeting, a magazine meeting, a Navy Now Forum meeting, and a Board of Directors meeting to prepare for.
If you have kept up with CAPT Puzon’s legislative alerts you know that TRICARE fees for those retirees under the age of 65 and using Prime are under attack. Ike is working on our written testimony to be submitted to Congress. DoD has been very smart this year by proposing small increases to TRICARE Prime enrolment fees which some associations think reasonable. The problem, as we have said, is that for 2013 and beyond they want to tie increases to some sort of index (not yet explained) for health care costs. AUSN is and will be on record as against such indexing. I could ramble on, this is a complex issue, but I will append here part of an e-mail that I sent this morning to Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee:
The proposed fee increase for 2012 is deliberately designed to appear so reasonable to the uninformed that it could hardy be argued against. It is smoke for the much larger increases envisioned by indexing in the out years. The open-ended indexing being proposed for 2013 and beyond is absolutely not acceptable to our members. It places the military earned health care benefit on the same plane as health care for the general population. Our veterans have earned and deserve better! While AUSN is not in favor of a rank based fee structure, we must all view any increases as they impact the retired E-6, not admirals such as me. In discussion with various associations the Department has suggested that the proposed increases to TRICARE Prime fees may be only the beginning of adjustments to be made in succeeding years. AUSN would prefer that any such fee increases in the future be placed in the hands of Congress by law and not left to the desires of a particular Secretary of Defense. After all, once an individual is retired they cease being viewed as an asset by the Department and become viewed as just an expense. We are very mindful of the recent second GAO report dealing with lack of efficiencies within the Department medical programs. Duplication of efforts, lack of coordination among the Services, and excessive support staffs are among the issues sited which could produce $250M-$360M in annual savings if implemented. The report sites six years of studies and discussion with very little progress. AUSN strongly believes that DoD should be held accountable for such efficiencies before passing the burden on to its retirees.
Health care is a thorny issue in light of our economy. That said we must ensure that our military Veterans continue to be viewed as a national treasure in a class by themselves. While the promise of free health care to military retirees has been watered down over the years with co-pays, TRICARE enrollment fees, and so forth, we should not simply abandon that concept, as DoD is proposing, without careful deliberation by our Congress.
As always my attempt is to keep you informed about what is going on here at headquarters. A few of you have recently volunteered to help with our ROTC program or with NOSCs. Thank you. I will engage with you soon as we move forward. That said what else is going on out there? I fear the answer is not much at all. Except from a couple of our regular magazine contributors I am hearing silence from the elected officers and that troubles me. We are here to support you and we will carry the water for you but we NEED you as well. This Association is your association and what it becomes is up to you. With the end of the formal Strategic Planning Committee I frankly just don’t see anyinvolvement and that is a shame. To paraphrase Edmund Burke: Unfortunate outcomes may occur when good men do nothing.
That’s it for now.