Keep Our Promise
To America's Military Retirees Act Bill HR 3474,
A bright day for Warriors who gave their all but have been rejected by their government.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla Retired Col George Bud Day, Medal of Honor recipient and former POW in Hanoi is pleased to announce United States Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Randy Duke Cunningham (R-CA) introduced a revised version of the "Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act" on 11/06/2003 now numbered HR 3474. This bipartisan bill addresses recent developments and offers meaningful remedies to the "broken promise" of health care for military retirees.
This Bill, HR 3474, introduced yesterday is clearly great news in dealing with a gross injustice to our WWII/Korea era warriors, says Col George Bud Day, USAF, Ret, attorney, Medal of Honor recipient, and former POW in Hanoi. While the legal fight is over, our legislative efforts have taken center focus to move forward on the contract that was partially satisfied by TRICARE for Life remarks Col Day. We should never have been forced to wage this fight, but it was required, we took the challenge, and since the legal action ended, my energies have been focused toward a comprehensive legislative victory. Col Day urges A mountain of letters, phone calls, email, faxes, to now flood Senator's and Representatives offices encouraging support for quick, positive, legislative action.
Following is a quote from Congressman Chris Van Hollen's press release which Col Day, former plaintiff Robert Reinlie, and Class Act Group endorses.
Over the past year the Courts have laid to rest the question of who is responsible for making good on promises of lifetime health care that were made to young men and women who joined the service during World War II and the Korean eras, said Van Hollen. Recruits were promised by their own government that if they served a career of 20 years in military service, then they and their dependants would receive health care upon retirement. But while these career soldiers put their lives on the line for our country, the government did not keep its end of the contract.
This past June the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to consider a November 18, 2002 Federal Appeals Court ruling in a suit filed against the government of the United States on behalf of World War II and Korean era military retirees. Retired Air Force Colonel George Bud Day, a highly decorated Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, filed a breach of contract suit on behalf of two retired colonels who contended they had been recruited into military service as young men with the promise of lifetime health care upon retirement after serving at least 20 years in uniform.
In 1956, long after Col. Day's clients signed up for military duty, Congress enacted the first laws that defined, and began to limit, the level of health care that would be provided to military retirees. These laws, which took effect in December 7, 1956, made health care available at military facilities conditioned on space availabilityin other words, military retirees had to go to the end of the line and wait for health care. Subsequent laws removed them entirely from the military health care system when they became eligible for Medicare, resulting in a dramatic reduction in health care benefits.
The Appeals Court ruled against the plaintiffs on a technicality, arguing that promises by recruiters were invalid because only Congress could authorize military health care, which Congress had not done when the plaintiffs entered the service, said Van Hollen. But although the retired colonels lost their case on that technicality, I believe they won their moral battle on principle.
The Court ruling said, in part, We cannot readily imagine more sympathetic plaintiffs than the retired officers of the World War II and Korean War era involved in this case. They served their country for at least 20 years with the understanding that when they retired they and their dependents would receive full free health care for life. The promise of such health care was made in good faith and relied upon. . . . Perhaps Congress will consider using its legal power to address the moral claims raised by Schism and Reinlie on their own behalf, and indirectly for other affected retirees.
Van Hollen continued, The Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act was originally introduced in 1999 to acknowledge the promises made in good faith to America's military retirees. But now that the Courts have ruled that only Congress can make good on promises made to our military retirees, it is more important than ever that Congress pass this bill. Van Hollen noted that the new bill offers more meaningful restitution for broken promises by waiving both the Part B premium and the late fee for World War II and Korean era military retirees.
The new bill also addresses broken promises made to military retirees who joined the service after 1956. Even though laws were on the books beginning in 1956 that defined and limited military retiree health care, he said, the sad truth is that the empty promise of lifetime health care was used as a recruiting tool for many years beyond the scope of the Col. Day's case, to those who entered the military after 1956. This is documented in recruiting literature well into the 1990s. We must keep our promises to them, too.
These retirees, mainly from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf eras, qualify for the military health care program known generally as Tricare. Tricare works well for many military retirees but fails to deliver quality health care for others, said Van Hollen. Some retirees cannot receive care at military bases due to lack of space availability. Base closures have cut off access for many retirees, and too many of them cannot find private doctors who will put up with bureaucratic inefficiencies or low reimbursements they have encountered with Tricare.
Van Hollen believes strongly that military retirees who are not well served by Tricare deserve an alternative. The Keep Our Promise Act offers these retirees the option of enrolling in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP); the new version of the bill improves this benefit for military retirees by reimbursing them for expenses they incur under FEHBP that they would not have been incurred under Tricare. This provision is cost-neutral since the government would be covering these health care expenses under one program or the other, said Van Hollen.
The Courts have ruled. It is up to Congress to make good on the promises that were madeand brokento our military retirees. They are not asking for handoutsthey ask only for what was promised to them and what they earned, said Van Hollen.
Col Day remarks, The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in their November 18, 2002 ruling clearly acknowledge a moral obligation the United States Government has to military retirees. Their ruling urges Congress to also acknowledge and enact legislation that will move forward in correcting this long standing medical care injustice.
Col Day continues, After nearly seven years of legal and legislative efforts, the revised 'Keep Our Promise To America's Military Retirees Act' HR 3474 of 2003 will bring millions of military retirees, dependents, and widows another step in their quest for earned medical care. God bless every single beneficiary for their patience and faith in our government to do the right thing.