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Oct 22, 2011 9:14 AM by Kate Richards

Lawmakers willing to change military benefits

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government's promise of lifetime health care for the military's men and women is suddenly a little less sacrosanct as Congress looks for ways to slash trillion-dollar-plus deficits.

Republicans and Democrats are signaling a willingness to make military retirees pay more for coverage. It's a reflection of Washington's fiscal austerity and the Pentagon's push to cut health care costs that have skyrocketed from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says personnel costs have put the Pentagon, in his words, "on an unsustainable course."

Veterans groups are mobilizing to fight any changes. They argue that Americans who were willing to die for their country should be treated differently than the average worker. Lawmakers are sympathetic to that argument but many are unmoved by it.

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