Panetta’s Plan to Cut Military Health Care Spending is a Grave Mistake
by The Military Suicide Report
June 15, 2012
I have got to focus on some savings in the compensation area. This is an area that has grown by 90 percent and frankly we have got to be able to find some cost constraints in that area. So it’s for that reason that, you know, when it came to military pay, we don’t; we provide pay raises these next two years, but we try to limit those pay raises in the out years in order to provide some limits. We also do the same things with Tri-Care costs, and I recognize that is sensitive and controversial, but health care costs us almost $50 billion a year of the defense budget. I’ve got to do something to control health care costs in the future. — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, June 13, 2012, during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee
In the excerpted passage above, Mr. Panetta explained his plan to reduce the 2013 defense budget, in part, by limiting military health care expenditures.
He identified the rising health care costs as something that needed to be “controlled.” He does not acknowledge, nor seem to be aware of, the parallel rising rate of psychiatric and neurological injuries among members of the very organization he leads.
Mr. Panetta makes it clear that he plans to reduce the defense budget, in no small part, on the backs of injured and ill service members; it is their war-related medical conditions that represent the greatest increase in recent rise in defense health care costs.
This proposal and fiscal philosophy is a vile insult to the men and women who have served — sacrificing blood, body parts and sometimes their minds — in the post-911 era.
The need for health care funding inside the DoD and VA in 2013 has never been greater. The rate of suicide and psychiatric injury is at historic levels. Brain injuries caused by blast, concussion and toxic-chemical insults, are rampant. Traumatic limb amputations and other catastrophic wounds are being survived at unimaginable rates.
This is not a prudent time to reduce health care support for the men and women who have volunteered and sacrificed so much for the nation. Mr. Panetta’s plan to cut health care costs is wrong. To do so would be a grave mistake.