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Benefits: Rising costs mean slowing compensation, shifting care

Oct. 28, 2013 - 03:21PM   |  

The price of a soldier has almost doubled since 2001. And that means cuts to benefits and soldiers.

The price of a soldier has almost doubled since 2001. And that means cuts to benefits and soldiers.

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The price of a soldier has almost doubled since 2001. And that means cuts to benefits and soldiers.

“By 2023, we think it is going to be about 80 percent of our budget,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno. “We have got to work with Congress [so] that we slow the rate of growth of compensation in many different areas. And we think we can do that and still sustain a good all-volunteer force, the best all-volunteer force.”

Most defense leaders and lawmakers agree that changes to benefits such as retirement pay and health care would be grandfathered. But they also agree that sweeping changes are needed.

But many of the changes aren’t the kind they need.

“We’ve lost scientists at our Natick lab in areas across the workforce,” said Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general. “We’ve lost clinicians in specialty care and subspecialty care, some primary care physicians. We’ve lost some nurses and administrators, too.”

The losses have impeded an “aggressive” effort to bring beneficiaries back into the health care system, she said.

“You want to bring your beneficiaries back in because it’s continuity of care, it’s patient safety. When more of your workforce is going out in the civilian sector, it is episodic care, and those patient records are still in the civilian sector.”

Horoho, anticipating budget cuts, has launched a geographic analysis to determine the best possible care. Behavioral health will remain available throughout.

Major centers for specialty care and warrior care — Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Fort Hood and Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas — will remain in place, she said.

“We will probably shift some capabilities there to ... bring more of our patients and family members,” Horoho said. “I think you’ll need to look at the smaller areas where we can’t recapture or we can’t sustain those facilities.

“We’ve got different types of options we’re looking at,” she said. “We’re marrying up our options with what the Army’s going to decide and we’ll move those two together.”

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