Military healthcare; the earned and deserved benefit of our military force is under attack again. It seems as though we were just on this ride, a ride that is quickly becoming terrifying for military families to be on. Early last year we were battling a devastating commissary threat, cancelled pay raises, and other benefits that were on the chopping block. It is not lost on me, and perhaps most of us actually living the life of a military family, that almost all of the people doing the talking and decision-making are not those who experience the military lifestyle. It makes these commissions, panels, and councils seem grossly out of touch and a political version of the Wicked Witch of the West to our Dorothy.
A Congressional appointed commission will soon be delivering proposals on cuts to keep budget costs down. One of the primary focuses will likely be issues pertaining to healthcare. In December of last year the Brookings Institute held a panel with Department of Defense officials, government management strategists, and think tank experts. As I sat and watched, poised to take notes, I tried not to jump to conclusions. Maybe they wouldn’t seem out of touch or too businessman-like. Maybe they really would seem as though they cared one iota for those of us who would be affected.
Unfortunately my hopes were dashed with one particular part of the conversation. Oddly enough, it had to do with emergency room visits. Apparently there’s a shocking number of ER visits within the military community, so much so that the panel felt the need to talk about it and how much higher the numbers are than in the civilian world.
It might seem like I’ve lost my mind, but if you are a military family member reading this you’re probably feeling just as shocked as I was. You see, in the world of military healthcare going to the emergency room is just like going to the doctor’s office. When an appointment isn’t available within a reasonable amount of time or when it’s the weekend, going to the emergency room is the quickest way to be treated. When there’s a physical condition that leads to great discomfort or an inability to function normally, quick treatment is warranted. I feel that if this was known among the decision-makers, we wouldn’t be having the whole “cutting military benefits” issue because it would be clear that someone wasn’t quite in touch with what was really going on.
As the topic of military benefits cuts prepares to come to head with the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which will be presenting their report to Congress in February, military families across the country are bracing themselves for what may come. It has been made clear in interviews, panels, and committee meetings that continuing on the path we are currently on is not an option.
However, those same families bracing for the future have also been repeating themselves like a broken record. Why must cuts come from the people doing the work? Why must military families bear the weight of a government they feel is spending money, hand over fist, in reckless ways? There are no easy answers to this situation, because it seems as though someone isn’t going to be happy. But when the government is involved isn’t that always the case?