*Legislative Update 2 July 2015: Act Now to Reject Military Pay and Benefits Cuts

We have 1 Action Item today, at Issue 1 below

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see REJECT MILITARY PAY AND BENEFITS CUTS.
Make sure your elected officials know where you stand. The time to act is now. When Congress returns from the 4th of July holiday, lawmakers will tackle the FY 2016 defense bill. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see AFTER SCOTUS RULING, VA REVISES BENEFITS POLICYVA streamlines benefits for same-sex couples. This week, the VA announced it will implement new policies to eliminate an inconsistent delivery of benefits. (See Issue 2 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 3. we see MOAA BACKS VETERANS’ BILLSLawmakers consider several vet bills. Find out which bills MOAA supports. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see WARRIOR-FAMILY SYMPOSIUM

Join MOAA and Wounded Warrior Project on September 9

MOAA’s Warrior-Family Symposium looks at how organizations align to improve the overall mental wellness of the military community. Registration is free. Learn more about the program and sign up today. (Click on WARRIOR-FAMILY SYMPOSIUM here or above to see the details and to register if desired. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1REJECT MILITARY PAY AND BENEFITS CUTS

Make sure your elected officials know where you stand

The time to act is now. When Congress returns from the 4th of July holiday, lawmakers will tackle the FY 2016 defense bill.

What’s at stake:

  • Pay raises that fail to keep pace with the private sector
  • Dramatic pharmacy fee increases
  • Erosions to housing allowances
  • Continued cuts to commissaries

Fortunately, House lawmakers stopped these provisions dead in their tracks. However, the Senate plans to keep them alive.

MOAA, along with our partners in The Military Coalition, sent a letter to members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees highlighting our concerns as the conferees aim to complete the defense bill before the end of July.

With time running out, we need your help. Contact your legislators and support the House-passed version of the defense bill.

 
 

(Click on  REJECT MILITARY PAY AND BENEFITS CUTS here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

Issue 2. AFTER SCOTUS RULING, VA REVISES BENEFITS POLICY

July 2, 2015

The VA will now provide benefits to same-sex couples, following the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. For the first time, same-sex couples will become eligible to receive survivors’ benefits, home loans, and other benefits from the VA.

DoD began providing benefits to active duty same-sex couples in 2013. The VA’s rule change now provides a continuum of benefits for all military families.

Prior to the Court’s ruling, the VA only provided benefits to same-sex couples who both married and resided in a state where same-sex marriage was legal. This resulted in vast discrepancies in the delivery of benefits to veterans.

In one case, an Iraq war veteran was denied the dependent rate for VA benefits because she traveled to Washington, where her spouse’s parents reside, to be married. However, the VA did not acknowledge the marriage because she resided in Texas, a state that did not recognize same-sex marriages.

Earlier this year, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced legislation to force the VA to provide benefits to same-sex couples living in states that did not recognize same-sex unions. The Senate ultimately rejected her proposal.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, Shaheen wrote, “this clear inequity has not only been an affront to thousands of men and women who have served our nation faithfully in uniform, it has also offended the basic principles of equality and fairness that are the foundation of our legal system.”

“It makes little sense that a couple could be eligible for benefits on active duty, only to be denied earned benefits after taking off the uniform,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). “The VA’s ruling helps standardize the delivery of benefits for veterans and their families across the country.”

Issue 3.  MOAA BACKS VETERANS’ BILLS

July 2, 2015

Congress is currently working on several important veterans’ bills. Please take a moment to send your elected officials a MOAA-suggested message on the following pieces of legislation:

S.1085 : Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act. This bill provides veterans of all eras eligibility for a full range of caregiver support services through the VA.

  1. 469: Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act.This bill improves reproductive assistance provided by DoD and VA to severely wounded, ill, or injured members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their spouses or partners.
  2. 901: Toxic Exposure Research Act.This bill establishes a national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions for the descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during service in the Armed Forces.

Note: MOAA recommended substituting the term “Uniformed Services” for “Armed Forces” to ensure that research conducted at a designated VA Medical Center is applicable to commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and NOAA Corps.

  1. 1641: Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act.This important bill keeps veterans safe by providing the VA with the necessary tools to provide effective pain management services.

H.R. 303:  Concurrent receipt . This longstanding, top MOAA priority authorizes full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for retirees with regular or Guard/Reserve retirements, regardless of disability rating.

H.R. 1384: Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act. This bill would grant veteran status to members of the Reserve Components who served a career of 20 years or more and are military retirees, but who are not recognized by the government as “veterans” because of no service under active duty orders.

Note: H.R. 1384 was adopted as a provision in the House version of the FY 2016 defense bill and will be up for debate when House and Senate lawmakers meet later this month.

MOAA thanks the committees and the members who sponsored or co-sponsored the above bills.

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll downunder “Current Action Alerts” and click on Reject Military Pay and Benefits Cuts
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired .
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc. (usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the most readily observable option for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that.

 

NOTE:

Below is a message that I sent to Senator Flake today to try to resolve that problem:

 

Senator,

I have been in contact with your staff and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) staff in an attempt to find out and resolve the issue of your office not accepting messages generated by http://capwiz.com/ for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the Military Coalition (TMC) for forwarding to our Legislators by Military Retirees and other Veterans. And while the process provides a rather time consuming process for mailing hard copies of the messages or through your Email contact system that I am using for this message, you are the only Arizona Legislator that refuses to accept Email messages through the MOAA capwiz process, and I and other Military Retirees and Veterans would greatly appreciate your help in getting this problem resolved.

 

Respectfully,

 

Gene Fenstermacher,

Colonel (USAF Retired)

 

Below is this week’s Legislative Update Action Item:

 

As the defense bill is being decided in conference, please reject the following proposals that unfairly target the currently serving community:

 

– A third consecutive year of capping military pay raises below what current law mandates

– Forcing currently serving families to pay 5 percent out-of-pocket for their housing

– Cutting a quarter of the commissary funding

– Another year of disproportionately high pharmacy fee increases

 

These long-term plans repeat many of the poor cost-cutting decisions that led to the retention problem in the late 1990s when servicemembers suffered a 13.5% pay gap and were forced to cover 20% of their housing costs out-of-pocket.

 

As your constituent, please reject these disastrous provisions in the FY 2016 defense bill.

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

Legislative Update 26 June 2015: What the Supreme Court’s Decision Means for TRICARE

We have No Action Items today

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see SUPREME COURT RULES ON HEALTH CARESupreme Court issues landmark decision on health care. What does this mean for TRICARE? (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see DATA BREACH NOTIFICATIONS SENTMillions of OPM records accessed by hackers.. Extent of the damage still not fully understood. (See Issue 2 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 3. we see BUDGET SHORTFALL THREATENS VETERANS HEALTH CAREUnexpected rise in health care demand strains VA budget.. Will Congress give the VA another bailout? (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see MOAA ATTENDS MISSION TRANSITION EVENT Career transition event hosted for post-9/11 veterans and military families. (See Issue 4 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 5. we see DOD WANTS YOUR INPUT ON MILITARY HEALTH SYSTEM. TRICARE aims to improve transparency. (See Issue 5 below for the details. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1. SUPREME COURT RULES ON HEALTH CARE

June 26, 2015

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can continue to provide subsidies for health insurance to qualifying individuals. The decision upheld a centerpiece of the ACA and national health care reform.

The issue before the Court was whether individuals purchasing health care insurance through federally run exchange systems, rather than state run exchanges, are eligible to receive subsidies. Thirty-four states currently rely on the federal marketplace for health insurance plans.

TRICARE beneficiaries are unaffected by the decision. At the urging of MOAA and other military and veterans organizations, Congress passed the TRICARE Affirmation Act in April 2010, providing a statutory regulation saying that TRICARE satisfies the minimum essential coverage requirements of the ACA. Congress passed subsequent legislation a month later to exempt VA and CHAMPVA beneficiaries from the coverage requirements. These plans are also excluded from so-called “Cadillac taxes” on high-value plans.

Importantly, the ACA will not affect TRICARE or the VA’s health administration, eligibility, or cost to beneficiaries.

MOAA’s focus remains on safeguarding military and VA beneficiaries’ health care benefits, protecting against taxation of those benefits, improving access to providers, and ensuring long-term sustainability of Medicare and TRICARE. Our mission is to make sure government leaders in both the executive and legislative branches understand the important distinction between social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security and earned compensation for a career of military service and sacrifice.

MOAA will continue to track the ACA and ensure that military and VA beneficiaries are not negatively impacted.

Issue 2. DATA BREACH NOTIFICATIONS SENT

June 26, 2015

A cyberattack on the Office of Personnel Management exposed sensitive information of millions of Americans.

It is currently unclear exactly how many are affected by the data breach; some reports speculate as many as 32 million people have been victimized by the attack. So far, officials at OPM have confirmed at least 4 million government workers had their personal information compromised.

The ongoing investigation has revealed military records were not involved in the breach; however, the personnel records of current, former, and prospective federal employees’ and some contractors’ background investigations may have been compromised.

OPM’s investigation continues with the help of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

OPM is offering free credit-monitoring services, similar to MOAA’s Identity Guard , to affected employees. So far, the services have cost the government $20 million.

DoD is the largest federal employer of military veterans. About forty percent of all DoD civilians are veterans.

MOAA remains very concerned over the OPM data breach. “It’s not only a violation of federal employee information,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), “but also an incursion into the privacy of many of our members who transitioned to the federal workforce.”

We appeal to Congress and the administration to complete a thorough investigation and implement actions to prevent further breaches.

Issue 3.  BUDGET SHORTFALL THREATENS VETERANS HEALTH CARE

June 26, 2015

The VA is facing a $2.6 billion budget deficit this year, according to VA officials. Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of the VA, told lawmakers the department needs the money to bridge the gap of the projected shortfall.

According to Gibson, the budget deficit is largely a result of increased demand for care outside of VA facilities and the rising costs of expensive hepatitis C treatments. A full round of hepatitis C treatments can run upwards of $100,000.

But Congress may not be so quick to hand over the money. Citing a “startling lack of transparency and accountability,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told Gibson he was frustrated with cost overruns and delays with other VA projects, notably construction projects at medical facilities in Colorado.

VA officials also discussed their efforts to improve Community Care Programs.  Including the Veterans Choice Program, seven different programs provide non-VA care. Each program comes with a different authorization process and a different set of authorities.

Gibson stressed that the outside care programs need to be reconciled and streamlined. He also asked the committee to remove some of the congressionally placed restrictions on how the VA can spend money on Community Care Programs. Without the budget flexibility, Gibson said the VA “will have to deny care to veterans, a position we don’t want to be in.”

MOAA believes Congress must work with the VA to ensure the department has the necessary resources to meet veterans’ health care needs.

Issue 4. MOAA ATTENDS MISSION TRANSITION EVENT 

Career transition event hosted for post-9/11 veterans and military families.

Former President George W. Bush pledges support.

(Click on  MOAA ATTENDS MISSION TRANSITION EVENT  here or above to see the details. GF)

Issue 5. DOD WANTS YOUR INPUT ON MILITARY HEALTH SYSTEM.

TRICARE aims to improve transparency..

Your feedback is important – take their survey to provide your input

(Click on  DOD WANTS YOUR INPUT ON MILITARY HEALTH SYSTEM  here or above to see the details and participate in the survey. GF)

   

 

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

Legislative Update 19 June 2015: Defense Bill Passes, Despite Veto Threat

We have No Action Items today.

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see COLA’S STEADY RISEMay’s Consumer Price Index released. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see DEFENSE BILL CLEARS SENATESenate defies veto threat. House and Senate to start defense bill conference next month. (See Issue 2 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 3. we see CONGRESS SPLIT ON FUTURE OF COMMISSARYSenate bill could slash funding. Will you see prices increase? (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see TOP DOCS SQUASH PRIVATIZATION TALKSSurgeons general reject TRICARE Choice. Top military medical officials came out against proposals to privatize TRICARE. (See Issue 4 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 5 we seeAGENT ORANGE AIRMEN Airmen potentially exposed to Agent Orange now eligible for benefits. Thousands of Air Force veterans affected. (See Issue 5 below for the details. GF

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1COLA’S STEADY RISE

 

May’s Consumer Price Index released

Follow the trends on MOAA’s COLA Watch.

(Click on  COLA’S STEADY RISE here or above to see the graph that shows we are 0.6% below the FY 2014 COLA baseline and nearly 2% behind last year’ CPI progress to date.

 

Issue 2. DEFENSE BILL CLEARS SENATE

June 19, 2015

On Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the FY16 defense bill, defying a veto threat from the administration. The 71-25 vote means the Senate has enough support to override the veto, should that occur.

The administration threatened to veto the defense bill because it exceeds budget caps put in place by sequestration. The bill attempts to circumvent the budget caps by funding base operations using special war accounts. War accounts are not subject to sequestration.

In a surprising move, lawmakers rejected the Senate Armed Services Committee’s recommendation to privatize commissaries. However, many of the committee’s original proposals remain in the final bill.

Although lawmakers submitted over 600 amendments, only a handful made it into the final bill.

Several significant amendments, which would have prevented further erosion to pay and benefits, never saw the light of day. Left out were amendments that would have granted a full active duty pay raise, blocked a five percent reduction to housing allowances, prevented further cuts to commissary benefits, and prohibited increased TRICARE pharmacy fees. We thank the senators who introduced these amendments.

The following table shows where we currently are with the House and Senate-passed defense bills:

 

What’s Next?

Now that both chambers have passed their respective versions of the defense bill, House and Senate lawmakers will go to conference to iron out differences. Leadership from the Armed Services Committees announced that they hope to complete their work before the August recess.

When conferencing begins, we will need your help. During this process, we’ll ask you to contact your legislators in support of the House version of the defense bill.

We sincerely appreciate all of our members who take the time to contact Congress. We need your effort and support to remind Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of the military.

Issue 3.  CONGRESS Divided ON FUTURE OF COMMISSARY

Jun 19 2015

Published by Karen at 12:49 pm under Budget Battle, Legislation, NDAA,sequestration, White House –

The House and Senate have approved their versions of the defense bill, and they don’t see eye to eye on the commissary.

The Senate

The Senate unfortunately took aim at the commissary system in its version of the  National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senate lawmakers cut $322 million from the commissary budget. A cut this big will lead to increased prices, reduced operating hours and days of operation, and a reduction in store staff.

Also tucked inside the bill was language allowing DoD to increase prices in stores to cover costs.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sponsored an amendment to restore the $322 million funding and to strike language that would allow DoD to adjust commissary prices, but her amendment did not come to a vote.

Even though her amendment wasn’t voted on, as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski rejected the commissary cut and provided full funding.

Civics 101: What does that mean?

Every year Congress works on two major types of legislation: authorization bills and appropriation bills.

Authorization bills tell federal departments (like DoD) and agencies what to do. Appropriations bills fund federal agencies. Appropriations bills distribute money to federal departments, agencies, and programs. These bills tell DoD how much they can spend and where the money will go.

Currently, the money for the commissary is in the Senate appropriations bill but the authorization to spend it is not in the Senate authorization bill.

The House

The House passed its version of the authorization bill in May. In it, House lawmakers rejected the cuts to commissary funding. The House defense appropriations bill included full funding for the commissary in the budget.

What’s Next? 

The Senate is currently working on its version of the defense appropriations bill. Once passed, it will go to conference where differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved.

The defense authorization bill is also headed to conference. We are hopeful that funding for the commissary subsidy will be restored during this process.

Ultimately, without the funding, the cost of operating the commissary will slowly shift to you, the shopper.

MOAA thanks Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Mikulski (D-Md.) for leading the charge to prevent privatization of commissaries.

If you are on social media, thank Senators Inhofe and Mikulski for fighting for commissaries. You can contact them here: Senator Inhofe @JimInhofe  and Senator Mikulski @SenatorBarb

Issue 4. TOP DOCS SQUASH PRIVATIZATION TALKS

June 19, 2015

 

The military’s top doctors told lawmakers they do not support proposals to privatize TRICARE. In Congressional testimony, senior military medical leaders addressed health care reforms recommended by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC). The report, released earlier this year, recommended privatizing TRICARE and creating a new Joint Readiness Command.

 

Although the surgeons general all expressed appreciation for the time and effort put forward by the MCRMC, they were unanimous in rejecting the TRICARE privatization proposal. They cited several reasons for rejecting the proposal, including increased costs and the negative impact to readiness training.

 

Under the MCRMC proposal, known as TRICARE Choice, millions of TRICARE beneficiaries would move to commercial, private sector health plans. The plans, administered by the Office of Personnel Management, would be similar to those offered to federal civilians. According to the MCRMC, TRICARE Choice would give servicemembers and their families more choices in health care coverage. However, the commission says that military families would pay up to four times more in health care costs.

 

According to Army Surgeon General Patricia Horoho, TRICARE Choice “would negatively impact the readiness of our entire health care team and present financial challenges for active duty families and retirees.”

 

Having TRICARE compete with the private sector “would drive up administrative costs and significantly detract from the operational mission of our medical facilities,” said Air Force Surgeon General Mark Ediger.

 

“It is critical to understand that our direct health care system connects with the battlefield and exists to provide health readiness to our soldiers and their families,” said Horoho. “This is what separates us from the civilian health care system.”

 

This message echoes what MOAA President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN (Ret) told lawmakers in February. Ryan said that problems with TRICARE “can be addressed in a systemic manner without resorting to its elimination.”

 

The surgeons general also rejected the creation of a new Joint Readiness Command, saying that current and existing reforms are providing the desired changes. The surgeons general said the recent establishment of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) aims to standardize common or shared services between the three military medical commands, such as a joint Health Information and Technology service.

 

MOAA agrees, and has consistently said that the largest barrier to an efficient and highly reliable health care organization is the three-service system. Instead of creating a far-reaching command tasked with handling the entire scope of joint readiness,

 

MOAA suggests building upon the current DHA structure and establishing a unified medical command with a single budget authority, one that can reduce redundancies and produce cost savings. MOAA appreciates the time Congress is taking to analyze the MCMRC health care proposals before taking action, and supports initiatives that strengthen TRICARE for beneficiaries and sustains military medical readiness.

 

At the conclusion of the testimony, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) emphasized Congress’s desire to improve TRICARE, saying they “look forward to continuing to work … to make TRICARE the premier health care provider in the nation.”

 

Issue 5 AGENT ORANGE AIRMEN 

iJune 19, 2015

Earlier this year, a report by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine concluded that crews operating on C-123 aircraft during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange. In congressional testimony provided in May, MOAA recommended that Congress and the VA act on the IOM report.

The report found evidence that those who served aboard or worked on the C-123 aircraft associated with Operation Ranch Hand (ORH) were exposed to the herbicide, both during and after Vietnam, when many of the aircraft remained in service for aeromedical transportation and other missions.

The VA published an interim final rule on June 18 to allow veterans to apply for disability compensation and VA care for any of 14 presumptive medical conditions due to exposure to Agent Orange. The ruling applies to active Air Force and Air Force Reserve veterans assigned to specific C-123 units from 1969-1986 who have developed one of the Agent Orange conditions. (Click on interim final rule and 14 presumptive medical condition  here or above for more detail. GF)

In a press release, the VA said that “Air Force and Air Force Reserve flight, medical and ground maintenance crewmembers who served on the contaminated ORH C-123s are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides during their service, thus making it easier for them to establish entitlement for some VA benefits if they develop an Agent Orange-related presumptive condition. In addition, for affected Air Force Reserve crew members, VA will presume that their Agent Orange-related condition had its onset during their Reserve training. This change ensures that these reservists are eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any Agent Orange-related presumptive condition, and that their surviving dependents are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.”

MOAA recommends any Air Force veteran who served in a C-123 squadron during or after the Vietnam War contact a Veteran Service Organization that represents and assists veterans in the VA claims process.

   

 

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 12 June 2015: DoD Embraces Retirement Reform

We have 1 Action Item today, at Issue 1 below

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see  ACT NOW: SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTSDebate on the defense bill is currently underway in the Senate, with a full vote coming as early as next Tuesday. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send messages to your Senators. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see PENTAGON SUPPORTS RETIREMENT CHANGESDefense officials sign off on retirement changes in memo to lawmakers. Retirement reform gains steam as the Pentagon weighs in earlier than expected. (See Issue 2 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 3. we see “ANTIQUATED” PENTAGON LOOKS TO THE FUTUREPentagon launches Force of the Future initiative. DoD seeks to compete as millennials eschew military service (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see DEFENSE BILL IMPASSE BREWINGLawmakers defy veto threat and pass defense budget. Politicians threaten shutdown as saber-rattling increases. (See Issue 4 below for the details. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1ACT NOW: SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS

Debate on the defense bill is currently underway in the Senate, with a full vote coming as early as next Tuesday

Several senators have introduced amendments for sustaining military pay and benefits, as well as eliminating remaining inequities plaguing military survivors and disabled retirees.

You still have time to act! Send an MOAA-suggested message urging your senators to support these critical amendments when the bill comes to a full vote.

(Click on  ACT NOW: SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Senators. GF)

 

 

Issue 2. PENTAGON SUPPORTS RETIREMENT CHANGES

June 12, 2015

After months of delays, Pentagon officials came out in support of changes to the military retirement system. Their endorsement sets the stage for major reforms later this year.

House and Senate lawmakers already introduced retirement reform proposals earlier this year. Their proposals are currently being negotiated as part of this year’s defense bill.

Pentagon officials are asking Congress to make changes to their retirement proposals. Sharing the same concerns that MOAA has raised with lawmakers over the past year, they are asking Congress to make changes to disability retirement, the length of government contributions to retirement accounts, lump-sum proposals, and COLA reducing measures.

One of MOAA’s earliest concerns with retirement reform proposals was their effect on disabled retirees. Changing the multiplier used to calculate military retirement could diminish a disabled retiree’s pension. Defense officials asked Congress to grandfather disabled retirees under the current system. “This prevents more senior members from receiving less in a disability retirement annuity than the current system,” according to DoD.

Defense planners agreed with MOAA that Congress continue contributions to retirement accounts throughout military service. The Senate’s retirement proposal stops government matching at 20 years. MOAA thinks ending government contributions at 20 years will dis-incentivize continued service.

The Pentagon also agreed with MOAA’s criticisms on potential lump-sum retirement benefits. This option provides a discounted, small lump sum while forgoing significant lifetime annuity payments. In its memo to Congress, Pentagon officials said that a lump-sum payment at retirement is a “smart financial decision in very limited circumstances.” MOAA took a stronger stance, equating the payments to unscrupulous payday lending practices.

In exchange for comprehensive retirement reform, DoD also asked Congress to eliminate an unfair penalty on working age military retirees. Under current law, military entrants who joined after Jan. 1, 2016 will have their future COLAs reduced by one percentage point until age 62. The military said that even by restoring full COLAs, the Defense Department could achieve savings with the new retirement system.

“Thankfully, the Pentagon provided its recommendations in time for House and Senate leaders to consider when they conference later this year,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret).

Though the Pentagon addressed some of our concerns, MOAA still worries that a 20 percent reduction in retired pay will fail to draw members to 20 years of service and beyond.

Issue 3.  “ANTIQUATED” PENTAGON LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

June 12, 2015

A new generation of troops could mean big changes in how the military operates.

According to Navy officials, in a decade, 98 percent of the force will consist of millennials. In order to preserve the all-volunteer force, senior leaders say the services must adapt to meet their needs.

At a conference with defense officials this week, Undersecretary of Defense Brad Carson called the Pentagon’s personnel program “antiquated,” stating that “oppressive bureaucracy exists” when it comes to force management. Carson emphasized his concern that “great dissatisfaction” of the system could lead to an exodus of talented leaders.

Drawing comparisons with corporate America, Carson said that although DoD can’t pay as much as companies like Google, it must give troops new missions to inspire continued service. In order to recruit and retain troops, Carson wants “the services [to] be beds of experimentation.”

To address this, the Pentagon is in the midst of conducting a six-month study of DoD’s personnel management system. Some things being considered are common private sector practices, like flexibility in choosing assignments, and talent-based, rather than time in service, promotions.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter hopes to implement findings from the study within the next 18 months.

“It’s an ambitious timeline,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) “that seems based more on how much time folks have  left in office rather than feasibility in implementation.”

Changes to the personnel system could come at an interesting time for the services. DoD is preparing to make some of the biggest changes to military compensation in a generation.

MOAA supports reviewing the current personnel system and learning from the private sector to encourage better talent management. However, it’s imperative that reforms take into account the needs of troops while also meeting service requirements.

“Just because it works in the boardroom does not always mean that it will work on the battlefield. The conditions of service are vastly different, and the need to keep well-trained and experienced personnel is essential to maintaining the all-volunteer force,” said Hayden.

MOAA will continue to track the progress of the study.

Issue 4. DEFENSE BILL IMPASSE BREWING

June 12, 2015

On June 9, Senate appropriators approved a controversial draft of the FY16 defense budget.

The budget drew criticism from the White House, saying that lawmakers used “budget gimmicks” to exceed budget caps put in place by sequestration. The Senate budget exceeds budget caps by $37 billion.

The budget defies spending caps by funding base operations using special war accounts. War accounts are not subject to sequestration.

House lawmakers used similar budget maneuvers to pass its version of the defense spending bill on June 11.

The White House insists that any increases in defense spending must include increases in domestic programs. The administration has threatened to veto the bill if sent to the White House.

“With a veto threat, we’re looking at another budget impasse this fall,” said Col. Phil Odom, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s deputy director for Government Relations. “Without a bipartisan solution, there’s a very real possibility of another government shutdown.”

Pentagon officials are also cool to the idea of using war accounts to bridge the gap between budget caps and its spending request.

“If this were a one-year, temporary fix you might justify it,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). “But what we’re seeing is a pathway that [Congress is] going to take every year …. That’s the way, unfortunately, it tends to be around here.”

What’s needed is a common sense alternative to sequestration’s arbitrary budget caps. Congress needs to repeal sequestration and give Pentagon leaders a properly allocated budget.

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll downunder “Current Action Alerts” and click on Act Now: Support Key Senate Amendments  
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired .
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc.(usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that for that.

.

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

MOAA Spouse E-News: Summer is Here

MOAA Spouse E-News
ABOUT MOAA  |  MEMBER BENEFITS  |  UPDATE MY PROFILE

SUMMER IS HERE

Defense bill battle heats up

The moving trucks and summertime seem to arrive simultaneously. If you are transitioning this summer, our newsletter has resources for you.

On Capitol Hill, things are heating up. Last month, the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed their respective versions of the FY 2016 defense bill. Learn what’s in, what’s out, and what you can do to influence the process.

Do you want to help influence change for the entire military community? If you live in the National Capitol Region, join our team as a member of the MOAA Spouse Advisory Council. All the details follow below.

Happy Father’s Day to all of our amazing fathers and Happy 240th Birthday to the U.S. Army.

Yours in Service,
CC (Army Strong!) and Karen

ACT NOW ON KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS

Time is running out

As time runs out, send our MOAA-suggested message urging your senators to support critical amendments when the defense bill comes to a full vote.

WHAT THE DEFENSE BILL MEANS TO YOUR FAMILY

What’s In, What’s Out, What’s Next?

The FY 2016 defense bill has moved on to the full Senate for consideration. Several proposals would mean less money in your wallet.

CAREER PORTABILITY FOR MILITARY SPOUSES

Resources for Military Spouses Who Need a License

Complicated state licensing requirements and lack of portability can cause significant hardships for military spouses moving across states lines. Get the scoop on licensure portability and see what states are doing about it.

HELP YOUR TEENAGER PCS

Make it a Smooth Transition

Summer is a time of tremendous change for military families–new homes, new jobs, and transition to new schools. Sort through a wealth of age-appropriate tips and resources to help your teenager PCS.

APPLY FOR MOAA’S 2015-2016 SPOUSE ADVISORY COUNCIL

Applications now open

Last week, we said farewell to MOAA’s 2014-2015 Spouse Advisory Council. This year’s council was a force multiplier for our advocacy efforts. Do you want to make a difference working with the largest voice for military families? Get all the details on the council and application process here. Don’t wait, deadline is August 1st.

If you were forwarded this email, please click here to join MOAA and receive further communications.
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© Copyright 2015 Military Officers Association of America   |   MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers. It is an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization.
201 N. Washington St., Alexandria, Va. 22314     |     
Phone: (800) 234-6622

*URGENT ACTION Legislative Update 9 June 2015: ACT NOW: SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS

We Have an Urgent Action Issue Today

 

ACT NOW: SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS

We compiled a list of the top issues demanding your attention

The Senate is expected to complete work on the defense bill this week. Several critical amendments have been introduced on military pay and benefits. Some of these amendments:

  • Stop the erosion of active duty pay and benefits and restore commissary funding;
  • Eliminate the offset of VA Dependency Indemnity Compensation from DoD Survivor Benefit annuities; and
  • Expand concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability pay to all disabled retirees.

Please send a MOAA-suggested message urging your senators to support these critical amendments when the bill comes to a full vote.

(All issues are addressed in a single message. GF)

(Click on  ACT NOW: SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS here or above or go to Here is the Process: below to send a message to your Senators. GF)

 

 

 

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll downunder “Current Action Alerts” and click on the first item: Act Now: Support Key Senate Amendments
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/or hit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired .
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc.(usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that for that.

 

.

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 5 June 2015: Big Cuts on the Table

We have 2 Action Items today, at Issue 1 and 3 below

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see  86 BAH? Troops living together could soon see significant cuts. In his June edition of the “The Bottom Line,” MOAA Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) looks at a controversial new provision on housing allowances. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send messages to your Senators. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see DOD ECHOES MOAA’S CONCERNS IN RETIREMENT REFORMJoint Chief echoes MOAA’s concerns. The Joint Chief speak out for career servicemembers. (See Issue 2 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 3. we see LAWMAKERS FACE UPHILL BATTLE ON PAY RAISEHouse votes to give servicemembers full 2.3% pay raise. Will the Senate play ball? (See Issue 3 below for the detailsand to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 4. we see WILL TROOPS ACCEPT NEW RETIREMENT REFORMS? New report on retirement reform. (See Issue 4 below for the details. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1The Bottom Line – 86 BAH?

June 5, 2015

By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret)

A contentious new proposal cuts housing allowances for more than 40,000 troops.

In language approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, servicemembers married to other servicemembers living off base will no longer receive two Basic Allowances for Housing (BAH).

How much will this “marriage tax” cost a married couple? If you’re stationed in any of these cities, a lot:

The proposal received serious flak from MOAA and other advocacy groups, troops, and the administration.

The marriage tax restricts BAH to the spouse of higher rank, eliminating the benefit entirely for the other spouse. The proposal is particularly detrimental to women servicemembers, 20 percent of whom are in dual-military marriages, compared to less than 4 percent of their male counterparts.

If that wasn’t enough, the marriage tax also includes a provision that cuts BAH by 25 percent to troops sharing an apartment or home. When I was a junior airman, a cut this steep would be significant enough to dissuade me from getting a place with someone in my squadron.

This is about more than a couple of junior troops deciding to give up their privacy in order to scrounge up extra savings every month. This is a serious cut to the overall package needed to keep pace with private sector peers.

Administration officials ultimately concluded that the proposal would negatively affect recruiting and retention of the all-volunteer force, and MOAA agrees.

The Pentagon uses a specific formula – consisting of basic pay, an allowance for subsistence, federal tax advantages, and BAH – to keep military compensation on pace with private-sector workers.

Because troops have little say in where the services assign them, BAH provides a monthly stipend equal to the local average rental cost to help offset their expenses. DoD uses annual surveys of civilian housing costs to determine payment levels near installations.

Currently, about 70 percent of the force lives off an installation post. DoD likes it that way; troops like it that way. DoD saves money on upkeep on costly installations. It allows military families to assimilate into their local communities.

What’s going to be the effect of this thoughtless proposal? Will troops seeking a relationship with someone in uniform be willing to absorb the marriage tax? Will it also dissuade servicemembers from marrying each other? Dual-military married couples could seriously consider having one spouse leave the service. Are we willing to lose these talented men and women?

The Bottom Line : Changing housing allowances based on marriage or cohabitation significantly undermines the fairness of military pay and puts troops at a competitive disadvantage to their private sector peers.

86 BAH? What the heck?

Act now: Send your senators a MOAA-suggested message asking them to strip the marriage tax from the defense bill.

(Click on  MOAA-suggested message  or 86 BAH? here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Senators. GF)

 

 

Issue 2. DOD ECHOES MOAA’S CONCERNS IN RETIREMENT REFORM

June 5, 2015

DoD is giving Congress cautious approval on moving forward with retirement reform. After months of internal deliberation, one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came out in support of recent proposals on some of the biggest changes to military compensation in a generation.

On May 21, in a virtual town hall with enlisted airmen, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh used messaging similar to what MOAA has been saying on Capitol Hill over the past two years: “Don’t reward people who stay less than 20 by hurting people who stay more than 20.”

Since January, Congress has been weighing the merits of a report by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) that calls for reductions in military pensions and moving troops to a blended retirement system. As part of its list of recommendations, the MCRMC proposed cutting military retirement by 20 percent. In exchange, troops would receive government contributions to Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts, the federal employee equivalent to a 401(k) account. Government contributions would stop after 20 years of service, regardless of whether or not the servicemember continues to remain in uniform.

Welsh and the other Joint Chiefs will ask Congress to support another MOAA position: extend government contributions to TSP accounts to troops serving more than 20 years. According to Welsh, stopping contributions at the 20-year mark makes “no sense.”

“This is what MOAA’s been saying all along. We’re glad to see the Joint Chiefs are not only hearing, but echoing our talking points,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret.).

MOAA supports providing a portable career device for those who leave the service prior to the 20-year point, but we have serious concerns that the MCRMC’s proposal will fail to provide the necessary draw to retain members to 20 years of service.

Congress is currently considering two options for military retirement. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee essentially adopted the MCRMC’s retirement proposal in its version of the FY16 defense bill.

House lawmakers, however, wisely understood that stopping TSP contributions at the 20-year mark would provide a disincentive to remain in uniform. When the House passed its version of the defense bill in May, they voted to extend government contributions for troops serving more than 20 years.

“What we’d really like,” said Hayden, “is for Congress to take more time to study the second- and third-order effects of these retirement proposals.”

Discrepancies between the two bills will have to be resolved in conference committee later this summer-

Issue 3. LAWMAKERS FACE UPHILL BATTLE ON PAY RAISE

June 5, 2015

House lawmakers approved a 2.3 percent active duty pay raise.

On June 2, the House Appropriations Committee approved funding for the FY16 defense bill. Included in the bill was support for a fully funded active duty pay raise and funding to maintain 100 percent of troop housing costs through housing allowances.

On passage of the bill, Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said, “I am proud that we have kept faith with the brave men and women, and their families, who selflessly serve our country.”

But they’ll face an uphill battle getting the provision signed into law.

In its version of the annual defense bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the administration’s proposal to cap military pay at 1.3 percent.

For the last two years, the Senate and the administration have capped pay raises.

In 2003, Congress tied military pay increases to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) to keep military pay competitive with the private sector. Congress recognized that annually raising active duty pay at the same pace as the private sector is essential to sustaining a quality force. Under this law, servicemembers should receive a 2.3 percent pay raise.

This erosion of pay puts servicemembers at a disadvantage to their private sector peers.

“A third straight year of pay caps sends the wrong message to troops,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret.). “Pay comparability can’t work unless it’s sustained through both good and bad times.”

Troops burdened by over a decade of war have had their last four raises average less than 1.4 percent. The last two years of pay raises were the lowest in 50 years.

“House lawmakers have done the right thing with supporting the 2.3 percent pay raise. It’s time for the Senate to do the same,” said Barron.

Act now to send your senators an MOAA-suggested message asking them to

 

(Click on an MOAA-suggested message here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

Issue 4. WILL TROOPS ACCEPT NEW RETIREMENT REFORMS?

June 5, 2015

As momentum to overhaul the military retirement system gains speed on Capitol Hill, a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provided predictions on if currently serving troops would convert to the new system.

House and Senate lawmakers are proposing overhauls to military retirement by combining the existing defined benefit with a portable retirement device. In exchange for cutting military retirement by 20 percent, lawmakers would provide government-matched contributions to 401(k) accounts.

The House proposal provides a government match up to 5 percent and continues the match throughout an entire career. The Senate proposal provides only a 4 percent match (after two years of service) and stops government contributions at 20 years of service.

Neither proposal requires currently serving troops to participate in the plan. Troops would have the option to opt in to the program. Once adopted, new servicemembers would be automatically enrolled in the new system.

Proponents of the plans say both proposals offer a better deal for the 83 percent of troops who do not serve until eligible for a military retirement, and currently receive no retirement benefits from the government.

For a much smaller portion of the force – the mid-grade officers and non-commissioned officers planning to serve a full career – the benefits of a blended system are more complex.

Members with more than 12 years of service would have little or no incentive to switch to the new plan. CBO estimates that none of those members would make the switch.

The report estimates that about 50 percent of servicemembers with 12 years of service or less during the opt-in period would make the switch to the new system.

Both proposals offer continuation pay at the 12-year point in a career. However, what the report fails to mention is that servicemembers are unable to invest their continuation pay back into their TSP accounts.

“Troops at this stage in their careers face a very tough decision,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret.). “They won’t be able to make up the difference in lost TSP contributions by twenty years of service.”

In a recent virtual town hall , Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told concerned airmen, “Those of you who aren’t sure, stick with the old plan. You know what you got.”  (Click on recent virtual town hall here or above to see the Town Hall details. GF)

The CBO report also estimated that the number of servicemembers that will opt-in to the new plan would increase for those with fewer years of service, so that 100 percent of servicemembers with only one or two years of service would choose to switch.

Though there are significant differences between the House and Senate proposals, the CBO report did not find any statistical differences in opt-in rates of servicemembers.

DoD is expected to provide its take on the military retirement reform proposals over the next month.

Before Congress rushes to overhaul the retirement system, MOAA believes these proposals require further study.

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll downunder “Current Action Alerts” and click on Act Now to Block Huge Cuts to Military Pay the first time through this process. And the second time through The Process click onAct Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housing.
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired .
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc. (usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that for that.
  12. Repeat this process for Issue 3.to send the Act Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housingmessage to your Legislators.

.

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 29 May 2015: Deep Divides in Defense Bills

We have 1 Action Item today, at Issue 1 below

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see DEFENSE BILL BREAKDOWNDeep divides over military pay and benefits. Learn more about what’s at stake in this year’s defense bill.. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see SENATE SEEKS TRICARE CHANGES   Another call for prescription copay hikes. (See Issue 2 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 3. we see HELP PROTECT YOUR COMMISSARY BENEFITSNew study seeks commissary feedback. The commissary wants to learn more about your shopping habits. (See Issue 3 below for the details and to participate in a survey. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1DEFENSE BILL BREAKDOWN.

May 29, 2015

The House and Senate released their versions of the FY 2016 defense bill. The House passed its version of the defense bill (H.R. 1735) the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) completed its mark-up (S. 1376). The two bills show divides on military compensation and benefits.

House Bill

In a major MOAA victory, the House rejects most of the administration’s proposals to shift costs onto the backs of servicemembers, retirees, and families in the form of military pay caps, increased TRICARE fees, and higher out-of-pocket housing costs.

The bill includes a provision prohibiting DoD from replacing or consolidating the commissary and exchange systems until Congress receives a report on commissary management and pricing options due later this year.

Lawmakers also included a provision that overhauls military retirement. The proposal combines the existing defined benefit – cliff-vested 20-year retirement plan – with a portable retirement device. The proposed change allows servicemembers to receive government-matching contributions to Thrift Savings Plans. Government matching would be available for troops beyond 20 years of service.  Under this provision, the existing military retirement annuity is cut by 20 percent.

SASC Mark

Senate lawmakers, however, took a different approach in their version of the defense bill.

The SASC mark once again includes an active duty pay cap below private sector pay growth. This would be the third consecutive year of pay caps.

The Senate’s proposal includes major changes to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). In addition to reducing BAH by up to 5 percent for military families, servicemembers who live together would see a reduction in their allowance. For married servicemembers living together, BAH would be restricted to the spouse of higher rank. Troops living together would be hit with a 25 percent cut in BAH.

In a big win for military families, the Senate bill allows TRICARE beneficiaries to use urgent care up to four times a year without preauthorization. However, the SASC’s mark also accepts proposals to double TRICARE pharmacy co-pays over ten years.  For more information on key health proposals in the Senate defense bill, click here. (Click on click here. here or above for more information.GF)

Like their House counterparts, Senate lawmakers included a provision in the defense bill that overhauls military retirement by calling for a hybrid retirement system. However, unlike the House version, the Senate’s proposal stops government matching at 20 years. MOAA thinks this proposal provides little incentive to serve after that point and remains concerned over the ability to retain mid-grade NCOs and officers in the career force.

The SASC decided not to wait for the report on commissary management and pricing before proposing changes to the system. Included is the DoD’s requested $322 million cut to the commissary subsidy, which will result in increased costs for goods, longer lines, and reduced hours and days of operation. SASC lawmakers also included a provision launching a pilot program that privatizes at least five commissaries from large markets across the country. The language also calls for a report on a plan to privatize commissaries, and directs the Government Accountability Office to assess the potential costs and benefits from privatization.

Take Action

MOAA believes the Senate’s proposals reverse much of the hard work Congress enacted between 2000 and 2010. Over that period, Congress helped fix serious retention problems of the 1990s by eliminating a 13.5 percent military pay gap with the private sector and zeroing-out the 20 percent out-of-pocket housing costs servicemembers faced.

Act now to send your senators a   MOAA-suggested message  asking them to resist these shortsighted, budget driven cuts to military pay, health care, and benefits when the defense bill comes to the Senate floor for a vote.

(Click on  MOAA-suggested message   here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

 

Issue 2. SENATE SEEKS TRICARE CHANGES 

May 29, 2015

Another call for prescription copay hikes. Senate lawmakers aim to increase TRICARE fees.

 

(Click on SENATE SEEKS TRICARE CHANGES here or above to see the details. GF)

Issue 3. Military Resale Study Group Wants Your Feedback on the Commissary

May 28 2015

Published by Karen at 4:42 pm under Budget Battle,Legislation,NDAA,Veterans,White House

 

Once again, the Senate is putting commissary benefits on the chopping block.

The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee’s markup of the FY16 Defense Authorization Bill contains a proposed $322 million dollar reduction to commissary funding.  This funding cut would lead to an increase in prices, a reduction in store operating hours and days of operation, and a reduction in store employees.

In its version of the annual defense bill, House members voted to maintain current commissary funding levels pending the outcome of a requested study on the commissary. Last year’s defense bill mandated a review of the commissary system’s management, food, and pricing strategies. Part of that review entails gathering input from commissary patrons. An independent study group is looking for your input to better understand grocery shopping habits.

Here’s where you come in.

This is an opportunity to voice your opinion on prices, products, convenience, other stores you frequent and more. The study is also looking at how valuable the resale benefit is to you and your family, and how your behavior would change if prices changed on some of your favorite everyday items.

In addition to your opinion, researchers want to hear from any other members of your family that use commissaries or military exchanges. Please forward the survey to them as well.

All responses are confidential and anonymous, and the results will be included in a report to Congress in the fall.

The survey takes about 20-25 minutes to complete. Click here to take the survey now.

(Click on Click here to take the survey now here or above to participate in the survey. GF)

Don’t delay! This survey is open until June 1.

 

 

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/   or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll downunder “Current Action Alerts” and click on Act Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housing .
  1. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  2. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc. (usually required on messages to our Senators)
  3. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  4. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  5. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  6. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  7. Hit “Send Message”
  8. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  9. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that for this issue.

.

 

 

 

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 22 May 2015: COLA Continues to Climb

We have 6 Action Items today, at Issue 2 and 3 below 

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see COLA CONTINUES SLOW CLIMB The Consumer Price Index continues its climb in April, to 1.2% below the 2014 baseline. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see MOAA TESTIFIES ON VETERANS ISSUES  MOAA outlines veterans’ health care and benefits priorities. MOAA testified before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees. (See Issue 2 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators GF)

At Issue 3. we see KEY VET BILLSSend your legislators letters of support. Congress is working on a number of bills that are important to veterans. (See Issue 3 below for the details. and send messages to your Legislators GF)

At Issue 4. we see VIRGINIA COUNCIL HOSTS LAWMAKERSElected officials joined more than 125 MOAA members. MOAA’s Virginia Council of Chapters hosted its congressional delegation luncheon. (See Issue 4 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 5. we see ANNUAL LETTER SURVEY REMINDER <(Click on ANNUAL LETTER SURVEY REMINDER to participate in the survey. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1COLA CONTINUES SLOW CLIMB

May 22, 2015

 

The Consumer Price Index continues its climb in April

(To follow the trends on MOAA’s COLA Watch, click on COLA CONTINUES SLOW CLIMB here or above to see the details. GF)

 

 

 

Issue 2. MOAA TESTIFIES ON VETERANS HEALTH CARE AND BENEFITS 

May 22, 2015

On May 20, Col. Bob Norton, USA (Ret.), deputy director of MOAA’s Government Relations Department, testified at a joint hearing before the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees.

Norton outlined MOAA’s key concerns and recommendations to improve veterans’ access to VA health services, upgrade existing benefits, and extend special services to disabled servicemembers’ full-time caregivers.

Norton also presented MOAA’s recommendations on assuring aggressive implementation of the Choice Card for veterans stuck on waiting lists for VA care, and those who live at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic.

MOAA was joined by the national commanders or representatives from the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association, and partners from The Military Coalition: AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association of America.

Norton described outsourced care as “a wobbly, three-layered cake: the first layer is local purchased care contracts, the second layer is the VA national patient-centered care contracts (PC-3), which got some primary care icing added on to the specialty care contract, and the third layer is the Choice Card program for rural veterans and veterans stuck on long waiting lists.”

Because purchased care complements VA’s direct care system, MOAA recommends Congress engage the Commission on VA Care to map out a long-term strategy to integrate all aspects of VA managed care. Given the importance and scope of designing VA care for the 21st century, the Commission on Care should be given a year to develop a plan.

MOAA also urged Congress to support other changes to the way VA does business, including:

  • – Building up the capacity to deliver VA care more efficiently in its facilities by hiring and training more providers, fixing the scheduling system, and reengineering clinical space along the lines of leading civilian health care entities;
  • – Recruiting more mental health providers and training them on the unique needs of veterans;
  • – Extending the time surviving spouses have to use new GI Bill “Fry Scholarships”;
  • – Authorizing VA benefits to Vietnam War “blue water” Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange;
  • – Providing veterans status to career National Guard and Reserve members eligible for non-regular retired pay who are entitled to certain veterans’ benefits, but do not have active duty service under Title 10 orders; and
  • – Extending special services and support to the full-time caregivers of severely disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001.

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), chair of the House panel that oversees veterans’ disability assistance, questioned what could be done to make further progress on the claims backlog. Norton said that new legislation, S. 1203 , offers “practical, low-cost measures” aimed at further improving the claims system. Norton added that MOAA is working with the DAV and other groups to streamline procedures governing appealed claims, which currently take about three-years on average to resolve.

Norton described the plight of Coast Guard veteran Alexis Courneen who suffered a severe brain injury in service in 1999. Her husband Jason is her full-time caregiver, but the couple is ineligible for respite care, CHAMPVA, training, and a stipend under the Caregivers Act. Under current law, those benefits are only available to catastrophically disabled veterans who served after Sept. 10, 2001.

In response to Norton’s testimony that, “there’s no policy reason to exclude Alexis and Jason from Caregivers Act benefits,” Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said that the committees were taking up the issue soon.

Send your senators a  MOAA-suggested message  to support S. 1203, the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery

(Click on MOAA-suggested message here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

Issue 3. KEY VET BILLS

May 22, 2015

Several important veterans’ bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress. Click on the bill numbers below to send your legislators a MOAA-suggested message in support.

(Click on the respective underlined bill numbers below or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators – don’t miss S. 602. GF)

S.1085 : Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act. This bill allows veterans of all eras eligible for the full range of caregiver support services through the VA.

H.R. 1141 and S. 602 : GI Bill Fairness Act. This bill allows members of the National Guard and Reserves to count time spent receiving care in a DoD facility for a line-of-duty illness, injury, or wound incurred during a call-up to count as active duty for purposes of eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

H.R. 1607 : Ruth Moore Act. This bill upgrades disability compensation procedures for veterans with mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma.

H.R. 456 : Reducing Barriers for Veterans Education Act. This bill allows veterans to apply a small portion of one-month’s Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for college applications.

Disregard S.1203 below  if you sent the message at Issue 2 above

  1. 120321st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act.This bill helps simplify and expedite the VA claims system.

Issue 4. VIRGINIA COUNCIL HOSTS LAWMAKERS

May 22, 2015

MOAA’s Virginia Council of Chapters (VCOC) hosted its congressional delegation for a lunch discussion on Capitol Hill on May 21.

Seven legislators spoke to more than 125 MOAA members at the event, where the Council thanked them for their support to date and urged them to do more for the military and veterans’ community.

VCOC’s annual congressional luncheon – now in its 30th year – is a great way for MOAA members to meet face-to-face with their legislators and push both state and national level issues.

A common theme among the legislators’ remarks was concern over the balancing the budget in a responsible way that doesn’t put a disproportionate share of the burden on servicemembers and retirees.

Col. Barry Wright, USA (Ret), MOAA’s Director of Chapter and Council Affairs, received the Minuteman award for his leadership. The Minuteman award is given to a MOAA member providing outstanding support and loyal service to the VCOC. Wright expressed his appreciation for the support of the legislators in attendance and thanked members for staying active with MOAA’s grassroots advocacy.

The VCOC recognized Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) with its annual legislative award for his support of many of MOAA’s top priorities and nearly fifteen years of service in Congress. Because of his dedication to the military community, Forbes received the award for the second time in three years.

The VCOC’s luncheon is a great example of how you can become involved legislatively through MOAA’s state chapters. Click here to find a chapter in your area.

 

 

 

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/   or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll down under “Current Legislation” to “Veterans and Other Issues”and click on 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act next to S. 1203 the first time through this process. Repeat this process for S.1085, S.602, H.R. 1607, H.R.1141 and H.R. 456 the next five times through this process.
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc. (usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that for the Senate Bills.
  12. After going through this process the first time, repeat the process 5 more times for the following Bills all under “Veterans and Other Issues”:S.1085, S.602, H.R. 1607, H.R.1141 and H.R. 456 

.

 

 

 

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 15 May 2015: Support Troops in Defense Bill

We have 1 Action Item today, at Issue 1 below 

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see TELL CONGRESS TO SUPPORT TROOPSSenate bill slashes military compensation and benefit. Tell your elected officials to not to break faith with those who have served. (See Issue 1 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see. RETAIL PHARMACY MAKING A COMEBACK? New proposal may give TRICARE beneficiaries more choice. A new pilot program creates a “preferred retail pharmacy.”(See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 3. we see IS CONGRESS LOOKING FOR FAST-TRACK AUTHORITY ON MILITARY RETIREMENT? Congress looks to make dramatic changes to your retirement benefit. In his May edition of the “The Bottom Line,” MOAA Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) asks why Congress is trying to railroad retirement reform. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see LOOMING CRISIS THREATENS VETS’ ACCESS TO CARE. Lawmakers demand VA fix barriers to health care under new program

When demand outpaces supply, officials struggle to pay for medical care. (See Issue 4 below for the detailsGF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1TELL CONGRESS TO SUPPORT TROOPS

 

May 15, 2015

Senate lawmakers completed their draft of the FY16 defense bill; unfortunately, several administration-proposed cuts to military compensation and benefits are included.

The draft includes the administration’s proposal to cap the active duty pay raise at 1.3 percent, below the 2.3 percent raise mandated by law. The cap would be the third straight year of pay caps below private sector wage growth.

The bill also includes increases in TRICARE pharmacy fees as well as reductions to housing allowances.

The bill follows the House’s lead of moving forward with a blended retirement plan. Unlike the House proposal, the Senate bill stops government contributions to 401(k) accounts after 20 years of service.

Both bills reject proposals to consolidate TRICARE and institute new fees for TRICARE For Life beneficiaries.

Neither the House nor Senate bill addresses sequestration, which sets unrealistic budget caps on defense planners. To circumvent the arbitrary budget ceilings, both chambers use DoD’s emergency war accounts to fund baseline operations.

Emergency war accounts are not subject to sequestration’s budget rules, but funding fluctuates drastically every year. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said using the accounts to fund the Pentagon’s base budget is “undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning.”

The budgetary shell game has led to a veto threat from the president. In a rare move, the ranking democrats from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) voted against their own bills.

The top democrats cast their votes to push lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan solution to sequestration. “On both sides of the aisle, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is ‘we should get rid of the sequester,'” said Reed.

In a press release after the bill was voted on, Reed said, “I am for a strong military and good government, and the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.”

“Cuts to pay and benefits are being driven because of one thing: sequestration,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret).

Act now to tell your elected officials to reject the Senate’s attempt to balance the Relations, Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret).Act now to tell your elected officials to reject the Senate’s attempt to balance the budget on the backs of troops and their families.

Click on Act now here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

Issue 2. RETAIL PHARMACY MAKING A COMEBACK?

May 8, 2015

Lawmakers included a provision in the defense bill giving TRICARE beneficiaries more choice in their pharmacy options. The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the FY16 defense bill contains language giving military beneficiaries the option of using a designated “preferred retail pharmacy” to obtain medications.

The pilot will include maintenance medications, which after last year’s policy change, are currently only available at a military treatment facility (MTF) or by the home delivery program. The assumption is that by giving participating pharmacies the ability to buy medications at rates available to the federal government, retailers will pass the savings on to beneficiaries.

DoD will be responsible for identifying the regional area where the pilot will be conducted, as well as determining the participating pharmacy retailers. In order for selected pharmacies to receive federal pricing on medications purchased for beneficiaries, retailers will need to comply with DoD distribution and compliance requirements.

The pilot will be evaluated for government cost-savings, just as the home delivery program has provided. Skeptics are concerned that the distribution and compliance requirements may be costly for the pharmacies, and drive up the costs of prescriptions.

Enhancing health care convenience and access has long been a goal of MOAA.  “We are in favor of giving TRICARE beneficiaries more choices within their health care pharmacy options,” said MOAA’s Government Relations Deputy Director Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret.), “and we are hopeful that this pilot will demonstrate that retail pharmacies can be cost effective.”

If enacted, the pilot will run from May 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2018.

Issue 3. IS CONGRESS LOOKING FOR FAST-TRACK AUTHORITY ON MILITARY RETIREMENT?

May 15, 2015

By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret)

After the House finished its work on the FY16 defense bill, you have to wonder why Congress is so intent on fast-tracking changes to the retirement system.

By now, you’ve heard the proposal: take the current 20-year, cliff-vested retirement benefit and convert it to a blended retirement system. Troops serving a full career get government contributions to a 401k in exchange for a reduced retirement pension. Troops who stay less than 20 years will have a portable benefit when leaving the service.

The proposal is an offshoot of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) recommendation to revamp military retirement. The change is prospective for future entrants.

What’s troubling about this is that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are moving forward with these drastic changes without first getting input from the Pentagon. The day after the HASC approved changes to the military retirement system, the Pentagon asked for more time to review the proposal. Defense leaders won’t finish their review until the end of July.

In a letter to Congress, the White House also asked for more time to vet the change. “Given their complexity and our solemn responsibility …, we will continue working with the Commission to understand how the [blended retirement system] would affect the All-Volunteer Force.”

MOAA has been saying the exact same thing since the MCRMC released its report in January.

So why the rush? Some folks on the Hill think if Congress fails to put something on the books now before next year’s election, no one will support changing career military benefits.

But the last time Congress fast-tracked a change to the military retirement system, they didn’t heed the warnings of the Pentagon. The last major adjustment to the military retirement system was in the mid-80s when Congress passed REDUX.

Then-Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger adamantly opposed the change, warning Congress the new system would inevitably undermine readiness and retention and provide more of an incentive to leave.

A decade later, that prediction proved true. Congress had to repeal REDUX in 1999 because the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress the program was damaging morale and badly hurting retention of the mid-career non-commissioned officer and officer corps.

The biggest problem with fast-tracking changes to the military system is that any future corrections Congress will need to make will be subject to strict budget rules. Accountants consider reduced payments to retirement accounts as “savings.” If Congress has to revert to the current system (or some other change), bean counters will see the change as an increase on their books.

Let me be clear. MOAA supports a blended retirement system that can provide a portable benefit to those who leave voluntarily with less than 20 years of service. However, any change to the retirement system cannot put at risk retention of the highly experienced, mid-grade NCO or officer the services need to keep.

The bottom line : Change of this magnitude requires further study. Before fast-tracking changes to military retirement, Congress needs to hear what White House and Pentagon leaders have to say about the proposal. It’s mission critical we get this right from the start. Failure to do so could take years to correct and end up costing Americans more than just higher taxes.

Please Leave a Comment.

Please Sign in to comment on this page

Click on Sign in here or above to comment on this article. GF)

 

Issue 4. LOOMING CRISIS THREATENS VETS’ ACCESS TO CARE

May 15, 2015

At separate hearings this week, House and Senate lawmakers made no bones about their frustrations with VA officials’ implementation of a new program to provide veterans’ health care.

“There is no excuse for the plethora of problems the VA was having, and the transition [to the Veterans Choice Program] should have been much better, but it wasn’t,” said Chairman Johnny Isakson, (R-Ga.) of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Choice Program, the result of last year’s shocking report of lengthy wait times at VA centers, allows some veterans to receive care outside of VA facilities.

At the urging of MOAA and several partners in The Military Coalition, last month the VA changed eligibility criteria for the Choice Program. Veterans who live more than 40 miles away from the closest VA health care facility and have wait times of more than 30 days to see a VA physician are eligible. Previously, the VA used a straight-line determination to measure distance from a veteran’s home of record to the closest VA facility. Now the VA uses a more appropriate factor of driving distance. The change allows twice as many veterans to become eligible for the program.

The change underscores problems the VA has had with implementation of Choice Program.

Growing Pains

A unique mixture of demographic factors is leading to increased demand for VA services. Aging Vietnam veterans are using more services at increased costs. Successful marketing of the Choice Program has led to veterans who may have previously decided not to use the VA to seek care. The conclusion of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is bringing in a new generation of Post-9/11 veterans to system. A growing number of women veterans, now 10 percent of the military, are seeking VA treatment.

Despite the growing pains, Deputy Secretary of the VA Sloan Gibson told lawmakers that the department has seen a 44 percent increase in authorizations for care since the Choice Program began in November.

Adding stress to the system is a 25 percent increase in non-VA care costs, like the Choice Program. According to Gibson, estimates for the total cost of the Choice Program now range between $4 billion and $34 billion a year.

As of April 30, the VA has spent just over $500 million of the $10 billion authorized for the Choice Act – a scant 5 percent. Of that, a little over $200 million has gone to pay for medical services for veterans.

Gibson insists the agency needs greater flexibility in contracting with community providers to address the expanded Choice Program and its associated costs.

Despite the frustrations with implementation of the Choice Act, most members of Congress and those testifying agreed that there has been significant progress in a relatively short period.

“We thank the Congress, the VA, and the HealthNet and TriWest contractors for their unrelenting commitment to making the program a success,” said Cdr. René Campos, MOAA’s deputy director of Government Relations.

Among the many provisions in the Choice Act, the law calls for a commission to study how to improve access and delivery of veterans’ health care for the 21 st century. MOAA joined other organizations to ask Congress to appoint members to the commission and give them sufficient time to do their work and present their findings.

The last commission on care was almost a generation ago. That commission created quality and performance benchmarks, and transformed the VA health system for veterans to receive routine primary care needs and specialized care for wartime disabilities.

The VA health care system is the largest integrated system in the country, with nearly 10 million veterans enrolled.

 

 

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/  or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll down under “Current Action Alerts” and click onAct Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housing.
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc.(usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that.

 

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!