Your healthcare costs are rising to pay for Panetta’s trips home

| April 7, 2012

Two articles in the Stars & Stripes today that kind of tell you how much the Pentagon thinks of your service. In one article, they highlight how your share of healthcare costs are rising;

“It’s just a slap in the face,” said [Air Force Master Sgt. Floyd Sears, 81] who retired in 1971 and receives $1789 a month in military retirement. “It’s an insult, a real insult, that we would get pushed around like that.”

The TLF fee, if Congress were to agree to it, would be “tiered” based on level of retired pay. Retirees who draw less than $22,590 a year in military retired pay would pay $35 to enroll in [Tricare for Life (TFL)] for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The fee would climb annually to reach $150 by 2016. Thereafter it would be adjusted yearly to keep pace with the percentage rise in nationwide health care costs.

But, the kicker is in the second article, about how Leon Panetta takes his private Secretary of Defense plane back to California every Friday and returns every Sunday night to DC.

So while retirees are facing unprecedented healthcare cost increases, Panetta can’t spend a few weekends every year in DC and save the taxpayers a few $32,000 trips to California so he can spend the weekend watching his DVR’d primetime shows.

Category: Defense cuts, Veteran Health Care

Comments (36)

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  1. DaveO says:

    Like lemmings to a cliff, leave it to a Democrat to show us the #1(%) thing to be cut from the Defense budget.

  2. cakmakli says:

    What a POS.

  3. OWB says:

    Don’t give a flip what Panetta (or any other bureaucrat) does on their own time. None of my business. Until they insist that we pay for it.

    Like paying for their commute to work.

  4. Marine 83 says:

    I seem to rememeber John Sununu haveing to resigne as Bush Senior’s Chief of Staff for that very reason… oh wait won’t happen this time, Panetta is a democrat and the press will give him a pass.

  5. Marine 83 says:

    Wow! My spelling sucks.

  6. Oh I figure by the time I turn 60 and get to start collecting my Nat Guard retirement pay and medical, they’ll have forgotten WTF we did and make us pay 100%.

  7. CI says:

    This is ridiculous…..Panetta should be “persuaded to resign” over this.

    What I wonder though is how much taxpayer money goes to members of Congress to travel back and forth to their homes while Congress is in Session.

  8. B Woodman says:

    Panetta = Pelousy.
    ‘Nuff said.

  9. LZ says:

    This literally makes me sick.

  10. Just Plain Jason says:

    Here is a crazy idea he is secretary of defense he can travel space available on military flights. He is stationed in DC…

  11. Eric says:

    I wish my transportation to work was paid for…

  12. The_Dude says:

    He came out here to afghanistan…to meet with the Georgians! Didn’t say a word to the US forces that were on that base.

  13. jonp says:

    I just read a story that he reimbursed the Dept. of Defense for all of those trips. Of course, this wasn’t because of his conscience but rather because he got caught much like Chucke Schumer paying taxes on his little hideaway in the tropics.

  14. Hondo says:


    Can’t say I’m exactly a huge Panetta fan based on what I’ve seen from him to date as SECDEF. But this ain’t Panetta’s idea, folks.

    There are precisely four DoD officials that, by current DOD Directive, are required to use government aircraft for both official and unofficial travel. They don’t have a choice. (There is a list of 22 or so other DoD officials that are required to use government aircraft for official travel only.) This is due to both security concerns and the requirement that these individuals be contactable 24/7/365, on or off duty. These individuals are called “required use” travelers.

    The SECDEF has been designated a “required use” traveler for both official and unofficial trips by the POTUS, and has been tasked to designate others in this category. The SECDEF has in turn designated the DEPSECDEF, CJCS, and VCJCS (Para 2.b of Enclosure 3 to DoD Directive 4500.56; see link below) as “required use” travelers for both official and unofficial travel. The SECDEF has also designated approx 22 other DoD officials as “required use” travelers for official travel only.

    This has been the policy since at least April 2009 (predating Panetta). Prior to then, DoD Directives indicated that the SECDEF had been designated by the POTUS as a “required use” traveler for official travel only. (I seem to remember that this changed shortly after 9/11 and that after 9/11 the SECDEF was required to use government aircraft for all travel, personal or official, but I can’t find a reference backing that – so my memory may not be correct.)

    Current policy is available at:

    Pre-2009 policy is available at:

    Bottom line: Panetta neither originated this policy, nor does he have much if any say in the matter. The requirement for him to use government aircraft to travel anywhere when he flies predates his appointment as SECDEF, and comes from the POTUS. And Panetta was up-front with the POTUS prior to his appointment that he’d continue to make weekend trips home to see his family (who still lives in CA) whenever his schedule allowed if he was nominated/confirmed as SECDEF.

    And no, jonp – the reimbursement they’re talking about is required by DoD policy, not because Panetta “got caught”. See Para 2.a of Enclosure 3 of the reference I provided above.

  15. Radar says:

    Okay, but I’m still not happy about our ‘free’ healthcare costing more.

  16. Hondo says:

    Neither am I, Radar.

    I just don’t like seeing people catch heat for doing precisely what policy allows – or as in this case, what policy requires. If it’s bad policy, then change the freaking policy. Don’t slam the guy/gal who does precisely what he/she is authorized or required to do.

  17. UtahVet says:

    I’m not getting too worked up about the rise in our healthcare costs yet. It hasn’t passed congress. It hasn’t passed the senate. It hasn’t gone through any committee successfully. And even if it did pass congress, and pass the senate, it would then have to be signed by the president during an election year.

  18. Hondo says:


    No, he doesn’t. But I don’t see why he should be required to stay in the DC area on his free time if he wants to be elsewhere and has the $$$ to travel there, either. And I certainly don’t begrudge the man the opportunity to see his family every chance he gets.

    You or I don’t have to go anywhere on our free time, either. But if we decide to do so and have the $$$, we’re free to do exactly that. In that respect, Panetta is no different than you or I. As I recall, he’s independently wealthy. He’s thus financially able to afford to fly home any weekend he so desires.

    And were I wealthy enough, if I worked in a place that sucked as bad as NOVA/DC area does during the week and didn’t want to move my family there (and get stuck with a multi-hour daily commute in order to live someplace decent), I’d do exactly what Panetta’s doing. That is, I’d live there during the week and commute home during the weekends. Did that for about 2 years, actually (though I wasn’t flying cross country to go home) – and I’ve known a bunch of others who did the same. And I damn sure didn’t stick around any weekend I didn’t need to, either.

    Were Panetta the Secretary of the Army or Secretary of Commerce vice the SECDEF, he could do what he’s doing and fly commercial instead. (SECARMY isn’t required by DoD policy to fly on govt aircraft when flying on unofficial travel, and I’m pretty sure the Secretary of Commerce isn’t required to use government aircraft either.) However, because he’s the SECDEF, he can’t.

  19. Jonn Lilyea says:

    Yeah, well, “the $$$ to travel there” is mine. So, if he’s wealthy enough to pay for the flights, then he should. And if he wants to be with his family, he should move them to DC. See, I took a job in DC, too. I knew that accepting the job would require me to move there with my family. If he didn’t want to live in DC, he shouldn’t have accepted the job. But he did and the taxpayers are funding his choices. And all while we’re paying for his decision, he’s charging veterans more for that which we earned.

    I don’t give a tiny rat’s ass whether he wants to be in DC or not, and I ESPECIALLY don’t care if he gets to spend time with his family as long as he’s screwing veterans and their ability to pay for their healthcare to the wall.

  20. WOTN says:

    I agree with Jonn.

    He may be required to use DoD aircraft when traveling for any reason, but he is NOT required to travel every weekend.

    And Hondo, if you are correct, that Panetta is independently wealthy, and has the money to go home on a lark, then the fact that he is not paying his own way to do so is particularly immoral. He is literally paying for a coach ticket on a common carrier, while enjoying a personal executive jet. He’s paying $630 for a $32,000 flight, plus all the expenses that come with that.

    As pointed out in the link above (Perspectives), that 32k is just the cost of the aircraft in the air, not the cost of also moving his security detail (at least part of which must go separately), the cost of their lodging, food, etc.

    Like Jonn said, if he wants to bend over the Troops, then he needs to stop spending DoD money on his own personal comforts.

    His wife and kids are NOT under any directive to use military aircraft, so they can fly to him in the coach seats he’s paying for.

  21. FYank101 says:

    Is it just me or does anyobdy else notice the profound resembleance between Pinheadetta and Mr. Potatohead? (the old children;s toy)

  22. NHSparky says:

    What I wonder though is how much taxpayer money goes to members of Congress to travel back and forth to their homes while Congress is in Session.

    Stand by to have to buy a new monitor after you punch out the old one.

    But most of those folks fly commercial, although Shelia Jackson-Lee demands “free” First Class upgrades, because, as she put it, “I’m a queen!”

  23. CI says:

    Yep, the survival of my laptop was on shaky grounds for a few minutes there.

    Thanks for posting the links, even though it ruined my day.

  24. Hondo says:

    Jonn: current DoD policy requires Panetta do do exactly what he’s doing. If the policy is stupid, the argument IMO should be about the policy – not the one following it.

    I know I’ve been in the position of following or enforcing a policy I thought was stupid a number of times; I’d guess pretty much all of us here have. But as I recall, I didn’t have any choice in the matter.

    Here, IMO it’s the existing policy that’s stupid. Panetta isn’t abusing anything by traveling home on weekends; in using government aircraft vice flying commercial, he’s doing what current policy explicitly requires him to do. I see no reason for an individual to be penalized for following or enforcing a stupid policy. And I also see no reason why Panetta shouldn’t be allowed to travel as he pleases on his own time, so long as that travel is consistent with his schedule and job’s requirements.

    IMO, this policy it could feasibly revert to the pre-2009 version and allow unofficial travel by the SECDEF/DEPSECDEF/CJCS/VJCS on commercial carriers in CONUS. I understand the need for selected DoD officials to be 100% contactable 24/7/365, but I don’t see why the same effect can’t be had by having the deputy go acting while the primary is in the air and out of contact. Kinda what a deputy does, if I recall correctly. I don’t see why that can’t apply here.

    But in any case, the argument here IMO is with policy – not Panetta.

  25. Jonn Lilyea says:

    The policy doesn’t force him to go home every weekend, nor does the policy force his family to live across the country. Those are choices he made, and we’re paying for those choices. I know he isn’t doing anything that the policy doesn’t allow him to do, I understood that when I wrote the post, and I didn’t write otherwise.

    I don’t know why you’re making excuses for Rat Face Panetta when all I’m doing is pointing out that he doesn’t mind spending more every week than I’ve cost taxpayers in the 38 years that I’ve been in the military healthcare system.

    I guess you can’t see the point, and I’m out of crayons.

  26. CI says:

    This is a tough situation; although Hondo accurately points out that Panetta is completely authorized/mandated to fly .mil….and his predecessors may well have done the same….there should obviously be a cap on the number of times per CY/FY that the SecDef can use this service.

    Amend DoD policy at the very least.

  27. Anonymous says:


    You make some good points about the official reason Panetta has to fly on our dime. Panetta and Biden define “Super Commuter.” It’s not that he’s required to fly on our dime – it’s the frequency. And the frequency is abusive.

    Why is Panetta flying home most weekends? Does his wife not like DC? They don’t want to rent a house? Is he trying to keep up his mad surfing skills? Is he concerned the illegals keeping his lawn may have found the closet with the good silver?

  28. DaveO says:

    I am the Anonymous contributor of #29.

  29. WOTN says:

    Hondo, the policy does not state that Panetta is disallowed from re-imbursing the full cost of his personal travels, nor does it state that the career politician must travel across the country every weekend.

    And no, his predecessors did NOT abuse this policy in this manner. More notably, his predecessors did NOT call for sticking the big green weanie as far up the backsides of Our Troops and Veterans. The last one did begin the cuts, but Panetta has taken it to a far higher level.

    Panetta has set out on a course where all KY Jelly is reserved for the “1%” at the top of the political apppointee levels to use for their personal benefits, as they tell the world they are “bearing truth faith” with Our Troops by stealing their benefits and throwing them into the streets.

  30. WOTN says:

    Will Panetta pay to fly Troops home from Germany every weekend, now that he has called for 6 month rotations (unaccompanied) there rather than stationing them there for 2-4 years, with their families (at a lower cost).

    Or is seeing your wife on weekends on the government dime, an “executivee privilege?”

  31. WOTN says:

    Oh, that’s right, Panetta is ending mid-tour leave for Troops in the Combat zone, decreasing combat pay, and INCREASING their time away from family.

    But “he’s just following the orders” of the President, and “knows what he’s doing” since it’s “his job to cut millions of dollars a week” from the Military.

    That’s what he calls “bearing true faith with the Troops.”

  32. CI says:

    If tours are cut short….mid tour leave should be cut

    And how is combat pay being cut? All they have done is keep people from collecting a months worth, while only spending a few days in theater.

  33. NHSparky says:

    Panetta is completely authorized/mandated to fly .mil

    Therein proving the old saw, “Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” Yet it’s okay to screw guys who have sacrificed their bodies. Time to bite the pillow kids, they’re coming in dry.