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Va And Tricare Fee Increases

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House panel nixes VA enrollment fee plan



der> Rick Maze

Army Times staff writer

The House Budget Committee killed the Bush administration's plans for

charging some veterans an enrollment fee for health care and raising their

prescription drug prices, but it left alive a proposal to increase health

care fees for some military retirees under age 65.

On a 22-15 party-line vote, the committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Chet

Edwards, D-Texas, which would have blocked Pentagon plans to double and

triple Tricare premiums for working-age military retirees.

Just minutes earlier, the committee approved by voice vote an amendment,

sponsored by Rep. Jeb Bradley, R-N.H., that would prevent the Department of

Veterans Affairs from charging an enrollment fee for veterans seeking

treatment who have modest incomes and no service-connected disabilities, and

a proposed increase in prescription drug co-payments.

To do this, Bradley's amendment shifted $795 million in 2007 and $3.97

billion over the next five years to the veterans' health care budget from

the foreign aid budget.

"We owe it to those who have served our country to ensure that they have

quality health care and benefits," Bradley said. "With an aging veteran

population and a growing number of servicemen and women returning from

military service, it is vital that funding for veterans' health care is

sufficient in order to meet increased demand for services."

But Edwards said the committee had nothing to crow about regarding the

Tricare fees.

"Minutes after this committee acted in a bipartisan fashion and voted down

increased enrollment fees and prescription drug co-pays for veterans, my

Republican colleagues acted in partisan fashion rejecting my Tricare

amendment, effectively endorsing a $1000 annual tax on military retirees'

health care," he said.

"I believe that keeping our promise of quality, affordable health care for

military retirees is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,"

Edwards said. "It is right because our nation has a moral obligation to keep

our promises to those who have kept their promise to defend our nation."

The two votes came on the $2.8 trillion congressional budget resolution that

sets broad spending and revenue targets for 2007. The House is expected to

take up the measure next week, when Edwards - who has more than 140

cosponsors for a bill blocking the Tricare fee increases - will again try to

get money added to the defense budget to preclude any increase in Tricare

fees for retirees.

The Senate passed its version of the budget two weeks ago and had a similar

debate and outcome. Money was added to the VA budget to make fee increases

for veterans unnecessary, but senators defeated an amendment, sponsored by

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to eliminate the Tricare fee increases for


Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said she hopes

for a different outcome. After a meeting Wednesday with military and

veterans' groups, Pelosi said she heard "loud and clear" that blocking the

Tricare increases "is their number one priority."

"It is unconscionable to impose a fee increase on the men and women in

uniform who bravely sacrificed for our country, especially during a time of

war," she said. "We must demonstrate our commitment to our troops and future

veterans by assuring them that just as they protected us, we will take care

of them when their service ends."

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

"Keep on, Keepin' on"

Dan Cedusky, Champaign IL "Colonel Dan"

See my web site at:


Change your email address when needed by signing in at


Forward to other veterans, tell them to Sign up at:


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