Bait and Switch

We had thought the White House had unleashed a brilliant strategy to help with military retention. Now, the stated priority of military families is looking suspect at best.

Quite possibly taking a page from the playbook of military retention gurus, First Lady Michelle Obama made her first trip outside the White House to visit family members of those stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

But the recent wailing and gnashing of teeth over possible veterans’ health care changes proposed by the White House seem in stark contrast to Michelle’s efforts to support military families.

The First Lady visited the sprawling base, home to the 82nd Airborne Division among others. Bragg’s units are in constant motion. Multiple and repeated deployments can take their toll on units, and the effect on members often is worsened by the toll exacted on their spouses, children, and loved ones, Many believe a uniformed member will ditch the ranks if the family is unhappy. (We are not accounting for economic conditions.) But if the home fires are happily burning, the uniformed member might have a greater propensity to reenlist. Retention is a fickle Achilles heel.

But those fires might be have cooled somewhat. What happens when that healthy soldier at Bragg is retired into the VA health care system with a service-connected disability? In a surprise announcement by the White House, it seems the money changers might be looking at billing a veteran’s private insurance for the care, whereas currently service-connected care is handled by the VA. We’re trackin’, but the proposal seems bizarre. (A VA spokesperson says additional information will come from Secretary Eric Shinseki and team. Our guess is the former Army chief of staff knew little about this, but that’s speculation. We will publish additional information from the VA when we have it.)

Even stranger than catching the VA secretary off guard (our guess), is the timing of this “announcement” just days after the First Lady’s visit highlighting the priority of military families. Maybe there is a big difference between active duty members and retirees, even though some were forced from active duty service because of the scars of war. Don’t know.

And all this as military families believe they are important to Washington.

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