Military medical commanders from the Army, Navy, and Air Force joined together to testify to Congress over upcoming spending cuts. They claim that the cuts pose a major threat to military medical research and health services for troops, their families, and retirees.

The military services’ surgeons general also urges lawmakers to make changes before the cuts take full effect.

Some inpatient and acute care surgical centers will be forced to close by the Army Medical Command if the budget caps remain, according to Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho.

Horoho spoke to lawmakers on the budget funding panel and stated, “devastating reductions to both civilian personnel and military end strength would impact every Army medicine program.”
In the last round of budget cuts, Horoho says that the Army laid off multiple contracted physicians and medical specialists and never recovered the expertise.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis said the budget cuts, which is sometimes referred to as sequestration, pose a threat to research funds. That would also put pressure on “restoration, modernization, sustainment of our facilities and research dollars.”

“And not just the organic research dollars for the military medical community, but for our partner institutions,” he included.

According to rules passed by Congress in 2011, the defense budget is set to be cut by about $40 billion in fiscal 2016 unless Congress decided to amend the Budget Control Act.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who is chairman of the defense panel claimed he will work towards a solution and, “everyone on his committee hates sequestration.” He also told the surgeons general, “it’s a straitjacket we’d like to get out of […] We’re trying to extricate ourselves so that it does the minimum amount of harm to the important work that you do.”

The fiscal 2016 budget proposed by the Pentagon seeks $47.8 billion for health care, which includes $32.2 billion to provide care for over 9 million active-duty personnel, family members and retirees.

Part of the plan also proposes to make Tricare into a single system and “also suggests new fees to provide wrap-around coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees” as well as higher fees for retirees and their family members who are under the age of 65.

The services’ medical commands are still concerned about keeping the levels of readiness and quality of care refined over the past 14 years of combat operations, as well as continuing development of cutting-edge procedures and treatment techniques, says Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan.

“You have heard the unified chant from all of us that we need to maintain an organic critical mass of research funding stream,” claimed Nathan.

According to Air Force Lt. Gen. Doug Robb, director of the Defense Health Agency, said the priority within the health system will remain to be its patients even if the cuts occur.

Lt. Gen. Rob says, “our commitment to quality of care is sacrosanct — we will not allow quality to suffer of place any patient at risk, but there are significant, negative long-term effects on the overall military health system that could undermine our efforts to support readiness.”

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Source: Military Times