This week, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) told KUSI in San Diego that one of the most offensive parts of the health care reform law is that it will move TRICARE, the health program covering servicemembers and their families, out of the Defense Department and “to the department that handles welfare.” He added that once members of the military find out, “all hell is going to break loose”:
BILBRAY: When the retired military finds out that their TRICARE has been moved out of the Department of Defense to the department that handles welfare — when you tell somebody that’s served this country in the military, that now their programs are going to be administered like welfare programs, rather than earned military benefits, all hell is going to break loose. I can’t wait for mom to hear that her TRICARE now is going to be administered by the welfare people.
Q: That’s just one of the things we keep finding out as we keep peeling the onion on this day after.
There is no basis to Bilbray’s claim, which he has repeated to other outlets. The Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services administers the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, aka “welfare,” and nothing in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says that TRICARE will be going there. “Those who depend on TriCARE should rest assured — TRICARE will not change under health insurance reform,” HHS spokesman Nick Papas told ThinkProgress. TriCARE spokesman Austin Camacho has also said, “Tricare is a DoD agency, and I’m quite sure it will stay that way.” Even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Monday, insisted that the Affordable Care Act won’t affect military care. Watch it:
Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan denounced the voices who are trying to “frighten veterans” with misinformation on TRICARE:
It is unfortunate that some continue to raise what is now even more clearly a false alarm that is apparently meant to frighten veterans and their families in order to prompt them to oppose the pending legislation. While there is legitimate debate as to whether or not the pending health care measures should become law, VVA does not appreciate spreading rumors that are not accurate by any political partisan from any point of the political spectrum
Even the American Legion, usually one of the most conservative veterans groups, has said military members “can rest assured that her TRICARE benefits are secure under the law signed by President Obama.” The Veterans of Foreign Wars is urging the passage of a companion GOP bill, saying it “would help clear up ambiguities.”
Additionally, the chairs of five House committees — including Veterans Affairs and Armed Services — have written that they reviewed the health care legislation and concluded that the intent “was never to undermine or change” TRICARE. VA officials, including Shinseki, have said the same.