The leader of the nation’s largest veterans service organization, The American Legion, has expressed strong opposition to proposed hikes in premiums being paid by enrollees in TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program. The recently released Fiscal Year 2013 federal budget plan calls for dramatically increased TRICARE enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays.

“We realize that fiscal realities dictate certain financial concessions may have to be made by our citizens,” said Fang A. Wong, national commander of 2.4 million member American Legion, “but to burden America’s military families further is, in our opinion, unconscionable.”

Under the proposed FY 2013 budget, the TRICARE Prime annual enrollment fee would rise from $520 to $2,048 by 2017, an increase of 400% in five years. Similarly, TRICARE mail-order pharmacy program co-pays for brand name medications would skyrocket from $9 to $34 over the same five years; another increase of nearly 400%.

“This generation of American servicemembers, however, is but the latest to endure the unique hardships of wartime service. All generations of veterans have earned these benefits,” Wong continued. “These brave men and women have earned health and retirement benefits in ways that are largely unknown and difficult to comprehend by civilians who have not shared their sacrifices. Those who point to the disparity in cost between civilian and military health insurance and hint at unfairness simply do not appreciate the huge premiums already paid by our servicemembers and their families as physical and mental health, and even lives, have been given in defense of our country.”

Wong concluded by saying that “true fairness” to military retirees and their families can only be attained by a “decisive and pointed rejection of these unjust proposals by all members of Congress.”