“Is This Really A Good Idea – Or Just Another Bill Of Goods That We Are Trying To Sell?”

By Craig Roberts

At a Thursday press conference, The American Legion literally and figuratively stood behind sponsors of bills being introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to provide flexible spending accounts, sometimes called “medical savings accounts,” for servicemembers. This benefit, say its supporters, would help military families meet child care as well as health care expenses.

A flexible spending account (FSA) allows federal employees to set aside a non-taxable portion of his or her earnings to pay for qualified domestic expenses. It is most commonly used to meet medical expenses not covered by insurance, such as insurance deductibles, copayments for doctor’s office visits, and even such things as medicine cabinet supplies. Currently, military personnel are not allowed to have flexible spending accounts, even though civilians who work for the Department of Defense are provided with them.

The introduction of Senate and House bills to correct this inequity were announced in a joint news conference by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif. In attendance was Barry Searle, director of The American Legion’s National Security/Foreign Relations Division.

American Legion Legislative Director Tim Tetz, who was testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Committee at the time of the news conference, issued a statement on behalf of Legion leadership. “The American Legion is proud to join Sen. Boxer, Rep. Sanchez, and the 112th Congress in introducing this legislation,” he said. “The burdens of serving our nation are shouldered by not only the servicemember, but their families.

“Any programs or benefits such as medical savings accounts are not only deserved, but worthwhile to enhance our support of those serving. Furthermore, to offer a servicemember the same benefit many of us enjoy is a small investment in the morale and welfare of our military and safety and security of our nation.”

Boxer appealed to those attending the news conference, including Searle, to recruit congressional supporters for the bills. “Once I get a number of co-sponsors,” she said, “I will go to (Defense) Secretary Gates and make this happen. I am fired up and ready to go!”