Do veterans have a right to free health care for life? - The Rumor Doctor - Stripes
Time and time again, Stars and Stripes hears from readers who say they were promised free medical care for life when they joined the military. The topic usually comes up when there is talk of raising Tricare fees for military retirees.
“I do mind paying more than $460.00 per year,” one reader commented on such a story in January. “I was promised FREE medical and DENTAL for me and my family, for life. So to me any increase is a continuation of the break of a promise that was already broken.”
Clearly, these folks feel betrayed, so The Rumor Doctor set out to see if there is any truth to this belief that troops and veterans are entitled to free health care for life.
“The short answer is no,” said Peter Graves, a spokesman for the assistant defense secretary for health affairs. “Health care benefits for military members, retirees, and their families are, and have always been, as provided by law, and the law has never promised free health care for life.”
The law provides free medical care for servicemembers on active duty and their families, Graves said in an email.
Congressional Research Service, which provides analysis for Congress, issued a 2003 report that found veterans were not entitled to free medical care for life, even though they may have been promised exactly that by their recruiters.
Since 1956, veterans and their families can be treated at military medical facilities “subject to the availability of space and facilities and the capabilities of the medical and dental staff,” the report found.