Tricare for Soldiers: A Guide to the Military Health System for Soldiers and Their Families

October 9, 2001

Provisions for health care for military families date back to 1884. The Army Appropriations Act of that year authorized family care “whenever practicable” and free of charge. Over the decades, from the end of World War II until the year 2000, provision of health care for service families and retirees and survivors fluctuated. “Whenever practicable” became “space available,” and often space was not available. As the Army reduced in size in the late 20th century, its capabilities for providing health care to other than active duty soldiers also declined. In 1988, the Army operated 49 military treatment facilities (MTFs) worldwide. By 2001, the number declined to 28 MTFs. After enactment of Medicare in 1965, Congress in 1966 created the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS), and modified it from time to time in succeeding decades.

With the legislative changes and drawdown of military health care capabilities late in the 20th century, large numbers of persons who should have benefited from the military health system were left out.

The Association of the United States Army and other organizations campaigned vigorously on behalf of all beneficiaries. AUSA supported the need for accessible, efficient, and quality health care for all soldiers, retirees, and families. AUSA wanted the reality of military health care to match the promises made over many decades.

The campaign succeeded with enactment of The National Defense Authorization Act of 2001.