Military Families and Supreme Court Rulings

The Supreme Court recently made two decisions that have the military community buzzing: it upheld the proposed health care law and struck down the Stolen Valor Act.

Health Care

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the health care law, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)(P.L. 111- 148). While it is a hot topic for many, the decision has very little effect on military families. For the purposes of this law, TRICARE is considered a qualifying insurance program and therefore, beneficiaries can’t be penalized or “taxed.” TRICARE benefits are governed under separate law that would have not been affected by any changes. However, the health care reform did bring about some changes when first implemented. Most notable were:

  • Health care coverage for age 21 to under 26: TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) will continue as a benefit because it was implemented by a separate law.
  • Pharmacy coverage:  TRICARE provides a robust pharmacy benefit for beneficiaries eligible for TRICARE for Life (TFL) (Medicare eligible beneficiaries). TFL beneficiaries do not enroll in Medicare’s pharmacy program Medicare Part D because of their TRICARE benefit. Therefore, TFL beneficiaries do NOT experience the “donut hole” mentioned frequently by Medicare eligible beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D. PPACA has a provision to resolve the “donut hole.”
  • Pre-existing health care condition: TRICARE already does not exclude any service member or their eligible family members who have a pre-existing health care condition from coverage.
  • Preventative services: TRICARE will continue to provide smoking cessation services because of a separate law. TRICARE will continue providing preventive care without co-payments, such as immunizations. This was an offered benefit prior to the implementation of PPACA.

Look for our upcoming article on how the Affordable Care Act may benefit military families as changes are implemented.

Stolen Valor Act

According to a Military Times article, the federal government argued that the 2006 law was essential to protect the integrity of war decorations. But the court said criminalizing lies about particular topics violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

“Permitting the Government to decree this speech to be a criminal offense would endorse government authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable. … It’s reasonable for the government to be concerned about the integrity of medals and to impose laws that honor war heroes.” But “fundamental constitutional principles require that laws enacted to honor the brave must be consistent with the precepts of the Constitution for which they fought” and “the sometimes inconvenient principles of the First Amendment,” the court said. 

The Pentagon plans to establish a searchable database of military valor awards and medals, hoping for a technological fix to the problem of people getting away with lying about earning military honors. An authoritative database would make it easier to check on award claims, and perhaps would deter some who would make false public claims.

What do you think?

Sound off on our Facebook page - what do you think about these rulings? 

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