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10-12-09, 08:59 AM
Vets rewarded by thwarted TRICARE rate hike
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October 12, 2009 4:30 AM

The efforts of veterans and military retirees in Onslow County and elsewhere were rewarded Thursday when Congress thwarted an announced hike in daily rates for users of TRICARE Standard.

When the Department of Defense announced Oct. 1 that daily hospitalization copays for those under TRICARE Standard would increase by more than 20 percent in 2010, local veterans called the move “disenchanting” and worried about how those on fixed incomes would cover expenses. But due in large part to the efforts of military retirees across the country, the U.S. Legislature killed the increase, releasing a Defense Authorization Act Thursday that prevented any inpatient copay hike in 2010.

N.C. Senator Richard Burr told The Daily News Friday that he had been contacted by constituents about the copay hike and would be watching the issue closely on behalf of local veterans.

“Veterans will not see that significant of an increase because Congress will not let that happen,” he said.

The senior vice commander of Jacksonville’s Order of the Purple Heart chapter, Verl Matthews, said that individually and as an organization, members had written letters to Washington about the threatened cost increases.

“We have to keep an eye on everything,” he said.

Matthews said he also feared for young, active-duty Marines who now had free or inexpensive healthcare.

“When they retire, it’s going to hit them in the face,” he said.

Another military retiree, Dan Joy, who spent 21 years in the Marine Corps, remained concerned about big-picture benefits, especially for older veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars.

“The older guys are on very fixed, limited incomes and are very concerned about all these increases and decreases in their benefits,” he said.

When increases come, he said, they diminish the ability of retirees to spend money on things they care about: “Grandkids, birthdays, what have you.”

Joy is also doing his part to stay involved.

“I try to get on the computer and shoot off my concerns to the Congressmen,” he said.

In a community with as many veterans as Onslow County, he said, when rates are increased, everybody suffers.

Contact Hope Hodge at 910-219-8453 or hhodge@freedomenc.com.