WASHINGTON (AP) -- The calls in Washington to rein in the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare ignore a major and expensive entitlement program -- the military's health care system.
The cost of the program has almost tripled since 2001, from $19 billion to $53 billion in 2012, and now stands at 10 percent of the entire defense budget.
Three defense secretaries, including the latest, Chuck Hagel, have warned about the uncontrollable cost of personnel benefits in the military.
Congress has repeatedly turned aside Pentagon efforts to raise fees or add enrollment costs. Lawmakers and powerful outside groups say low health care costs are vital to get men and women to sign up for the all-volunteer force. More than 60 percent of the beneficiaries are military retirees and their families.