By Vice Admiral Kevin Green, U.S. Navy (Retired)
At seventeen I finished high school and left Dayton to pursue a military career. As those subsequent years of sea duty and overseas assignments passed with a young family at home, my responsibilities included providing for their financial security and health care.
As a member of the military, the federal government provided for my education at the U.S. Naval Academy, paid me while on active duty, provided health care for my family and me, and provided retirement pay for me. Health care and retirement concerns remain important for both military and civilian families.
Today, most Americans depend on their own wages, savings, and retirement programs to ensure a decent standard of life, augmented by government guarantees, among them Social Security benefits and health care supported by the Affordable Care Act (ACA.) Today, those programs are under assault by Trump administration officials apparently intent on eliminating access to necessary programs intended to help taxpayers deal with health challenges and economic uncertainty. This is unacceptable.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments concerning the constitutionality of the ACA beginning on November 10, one week after the election. If the ACA is ruled unconstitutional, 20 million Americans will lose their health care in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has already infected more than 7 million Americans, including the President and First Lady of the United States.
It should be noted that the President and the First Lady receive their health care from the U.S. government. The medical team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center consisting mostly of military personnel provided the President with the best care available in the world — care that is not available to most Americans. If the ACA is ruled unconstitutional, then 20 million Americans will not have access to any, much less world-class, medical care for COVID-19.
Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has made health care more affordable and more accessible to all Americans. Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed rules that would allow employers to continue exemptions on prior programs which ignore ACA consumer protection measures, allowing those employers to increase deductibles and other cost-sharing provisions. These proposed new rules mean that more Americans will go without full ACA protections well into the future. This is unacceptable.
The Social Security Act has provided vital financial help for generations of Americans since 1935 and for some, it’s their only source of income in retirement. The recent directive to defer payroll tax payments — the source of Social Security benefits — and the declared intention to terminate the payroll tax entirely in 2021 undermines the anti-poverty program that supports more than 65 million Americans. This is unacceptable.
Even more alarming, recent public commentary suggests the administration’s intent to accelerate the weakening of Social Security and ACA by executive order and legislative fiat. American national security, to which I have devoted my entire adult life, depends not only upon strong military forces but also on fundamental fairness: a financially secure, healthy, and informed society that can depend on the assurances of its government that it serves their best interest.
By protecting these programs and voting our conscience, we can carry out our responsibilities to our families and future generations. That is what is acceptable.
Vice Admiral Kevin Green served on active duty for more than thirty years and ended his naval service as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Policy. Following his service, he was a vice president with IBM.