Legislative Update 2 October 2015: Government Slashes Military Retirement

We have no Action Items today


Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see GOVERNMENT SLASHES MILITARY RETIREMENTMajor changes coming to system. Despite a veto threat from the White House over funding priorities, Congress moves forward with a controversial defense bill. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF) 

At Issue 2. we see HOW DID YOUR LEGISLATORS SCORE? Want to know where your legislators stand on six key MOAA issues?. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF) 

At Issue 3. we see TRICARE PHARMACY CHANGES COMING.  New rules begin this week. How you get your prescriptions is about to change. (See Issue 3 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





October 2, 2015

House and Senate conferees finally agreed to move forward with an annual defense bill, one with a lower than expected pay raise and significant changes to military pay and benefits.

Military Pay

The defense bill capped the active duty pay raise at 1.3 percent. This marks a third consecutive year of pay caps, and continues to undo a decade of work by Congress to eliminate a 13.5 percent wage gap between military and private sector pay.

Pay caps add up. An active duty O-3 with 10 years of service has now lost over $1,800 since pay caps started.

Military Retirement

The bill also includes major changes to military retirement. Beginning in 2018, the new system will cut military retirement by 20 percent, and decrease the disability retirement calculation in order to provide a five percent government match to federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts held by military members.

The intent of the plan is to provide a portable retirement benefit to troops exiting service prior to serving a full career. However, servicemembers are already eligible to use TSP, albeit without a government contribution.

MOAA has supported government matching of personal Thrift Savings Plan accounts, but it should not come at the expense of cutting military retirement, or cutting the payments to medically retired service men and women.

The new retirement plan provides an automatic one percent government contribution to TSP accounts, with an additional match of up to four percent of a servicemember’s contribution. Earlier proposals stopped government contributions after 20 years of service. Lawmakers compromised and agreed to extend government matching up to 26 years of service.

MOAA will continue to advocate for government matching for a full career.

The new plan also allows for a lump sum distribution of a portion of retired pay.

Current servicemembers and retirees will be grandfathered into the current retirement system. Servicemembers with less than 12 years of service will have the option to opt-in to the new program.

Slashing military retirement by 20 percent and providing a ‘401k-style’ benefit will erode career retention and provide a greater incentive for members to leave service early. Because the policy funds the new vesting provisions by imposing major cutbacks in benefits for those staying for a career, MOAA has great concerns about the impact on long-term readiness and retention.

Congress also repealed the final section of a complicated COLA-reducing law for future military retirees. Future retirees were originally subject to a one-percentage point reduction in annual retirement COLA until age 62. At age 62, military retired pay would be recalculated and receive full COLA increases.

MOAA was instrumental in repealing the COLA change, with members sending 300,000 messages to Capitol Hill in just a few months.


MOAA is grateful Congress rejected proposals to means-test annual TRICARE fees and implement new enrollment fees for TRICARE For Life beneficiaries, at least for now.

Congress also rejected proposals to consolidate TRICARE Prime and Standard. Under those proposals, beneficiaries would have been subject to the enrollment fees of TRICARE Standard without the guaranteed access of TRICARE Prime. In essence, beneficiaries would be paying more for less.

Although lawmakers rejected major changes to TRICARE this year, they made no bones about the fact that now that they’ve overhauled military retirement, their next focus will be on health care. In report language, lawmakers warned, “… that comprehensive reform of the military health care system is essential” and “all elements of the current system must be re-evaluated, and that increases to fees and copays will be a necessary part of such a comprehensive reform effort.”

Prescription Copays

One of the most contentious issues in the defense bill was the future of prescription copays. The administration’s original budget called for 10 years of TRICARE pharmacy increases.

Senate lawmakers agreed, and proposed increases of 25 to 125 percent.

Proposals to increase prescription copays fail to take into account that TRICARE beneficiaries now pay 145 percent more since 2011, and that pharmacy copays are already indexed to annual COLAs.

Fortunately, House conferees prevailed over the Senate, but had to concede to a one-year increase in prescription drug prices.

Survivor Benefits

The defense bill also included language to correct an inequity for military survivors. The bill authorizes Survivor Benefit Plan coverage for a spouse in the event a former spouse predeceases the servicemember.


Original budget proposals called for both a consolidation of the commissary and exchange systems and a dramatic cut in commissary funding.

Those plans were thwarted thanks largely to the work of Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.). They delayed any privatization efforts until further cost saving studies on the proposal are conducted. Sen. Mikulski also led the effort to restore over $300 million in commissary funding.

The commissary budget only decreased slightly because of Mikulski’s efforts.  Patrons would have seen a reduction in the number of days open and operating hours.

The defense bill fell short on major MOAA-supported issues. The bill did not include provisions to:

  • End the “widow’s tax” for military survivors
  • Expand concurrent receipt for disabled retirees
  • Establish that career reservists with no active duty service are deemed veterans of the armed forces

“We are disappointed in the final defense bill and its adverse effect on military families,” says MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret). “We must reverse this trend of eroding pay and benefits because we’re sending the wrong signal to the troops at the wrong time.”

With the political horizon looking the way it is, MOAA’s membership will be even more important next year to protect hard-earned benefits in service to the nation.




Where Do Your Legislators Stand? 

The summary below shows the positions of your senators and representative on a number of key issues important to MOAA members. This summary reflects legislators’ status as cosponsors of MOAA-supported bills rather than actual votes on the issues, except as noted in the explanations below.


Senators are listed first, with Representatives listed below the Senators by state.

“ + ” means the legislator has sponsored or cosponsored one of the associated bills listed below. “ – ” means the legislator has not cosponsored any of the relevant bills.


Note 1: Your legislator identification is based on your mailing address in your MOAA membership record unless you have given MOAA a separate voting address.


Note 2: Many congressional/committee leaders have a policy against cosponsoring bills on issues within their purview.


Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) legislation would reduce or end the deduction of VA survivor benefits from SBP annuities or increase the amounts payable to survivors subject to deduction. A “+” indicates Senate cosponsorship of S. 979 (Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.) or House cosponsorship of H.R. 1594 (Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.).


Concurrent Receipt legislation would reduce or eliminate the deduction of VA disability compensation from military retired pay. A “+” indicates Senate cosponsorship of S. 271 (Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.) or House cosponsorship of H.R. 303 (Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.) or H.R. 333 (Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.).


Caregiver Expansion legislation would allow veterans of all eras eligible for the full range of caregiver support services through the VA. A “+” indicates Senate cosponsorship of S. 1085 (Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.), or House cosponsorship of H.R. 1969 (Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.).


Vet Status legislation 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 through no fault of their own are not recognized by our government as “veterans.” A “+” indicates Senate cosponsorship of S. 743 (Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.), or House cosponsorship of H.R. 1384 (Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.).


Women Veterans VA Access legislation would improve services and standards for women veterans using the VA. A “+” indicates Senate cosponsorship of S. 471 (Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.) or House cosponsorship of H.R. 1356 (Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.).


Spouse Employment legislation would provide a tax credit to military spouses who must pursue new licensing or certification in a different state due to their servicemember’s military ordered relocation. A “+” indicates Senate cosponsorshi


Want to know where your legislators stand on six key MOAA issues?


Get your personalized results in the October edition of Military Officer (And/or Click on HOW DID YOUR LEGISLATORS SCORE? here or above to see the details. GF)



October 2, 2015

Starting Oct. 1, most TRICARE beneficiaries are required to fill their long-term prescriptions via mail-order or through military treatment facility (MTF) pharmacies.

What began as a pilot program for TRICARE For Life (TFL) beneficiaries in 2013, a provision in last year’s defense bill expanded the mail-order program to all TRICARE beneficiaries. However, unlike the pilot program, beneficiaries will not have the option to opt-out of the program after one year.

Maintenance medications are used to treat long-term conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

According to the Defense Health Agency, moving TFL beneficiaries into the mail-order program helped result in almost 80 percent of the cost savings the agency claims.

“The overwhelming majority of people using mail-order give the program positive reviews for convenience and cost-savings,” said Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret), Deputy Director of Government Relations at MOAA. “While it unfortunately restricts some choice for beneficiaries, this is one of the few programs that actually saves both the user and the government money.”

Using mail-order for a 90 day supply of medication saves 66 percent from what retail locations charge.

In previous MOAA surveys, almost 97 percent of respondents gave the mail-order program favorable ratings.

By now, most TRICARE beneficiaries should have received notices about switching maintenance medications into the mail-order system.

Three categories of beneficiaries are exempt from the new requirements:

  • Beneficiaries currently serving on active duty
  • Beneficiaries with other health insurance (OHI) that provide drug coverage; and
  • Beneficiaries living overseas

Beneficiaries using maintenance medications need to enroll in the mail-order system or obtain medications through MTF pharmacies.

If you are unsure if your prescriptions are affected, you can call the number provided by Express Scripts: 1-877-882-3335.

For more information on the TRICARE Mail Order Program, check out MOAA’s Frequently Asked Questions.

(Click on MOAA’s Frequently Asked Questions. here or above for more information GF)


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

Special Veterans Legislative Issue 26 September 2015:

SPECIAL Veterans Legislative Action 



US House Bill HR 1266  will be considered on Wednesday morning by the US ‘House Financial Services Committee’. Arizona Representatives David Schweikert and Kyrsten Simea are members of this committee and Representative Simea is a cosponsor of this Bill. It is believed that this Bill will weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its ability to protect servicemembers, veterans and their families.


HR 1266 text is available at:  http://1.usa.gov/1h2TVis) .  There is also concern about possible amendments to other legislation that may seek to achieve the same harmful goal of HR1266.


There are considerable accountability mechanisms built into the CFPB leadership structure, making it already one of the most transparent and accountable federal financial agencies. These accountability mechanisms include:


–          The CFPB provides detailed semi-annual reports to Congress—only the Federal Reserve is subject to the same requirement.

–          The CFPB director is appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate and can be removed for cause.

–          The CFPB is subject to an annual GAO audit.

–          The CFPB’s enforcement actions can be appealed.

–          The CFPB’s budget is capped – no other financial regulator has a budget ceiling written into law.

–          The CFPB is required to conduct a lengthy rule-making process to evaluate small business impact.

Why change something that is already working well? The CFPB currently has a very high bar to clear when issuing enforcement actions to stop abusive debt collection, hidden loan fees, or 300 percent payday loans and has taken a data-driven and measured approach to doing so.  If the CFPB were to be re-organized as a commission, the rules and enforcement actions that have made the financial services market more fair for servicemembers, veterans and their families may never see the light of day.


And when regulators are structured as a commission, they often suffer from gridlock and unfilled positions that result from partisan in-fighting.  As a result of its single director leadership structure, the CFPB has completed its mandated rulemakings on time and has the independence to take decisive action to protect consumers before bad practices threaten the economy.  This bill will also make it more difficult for the CFPB to take the necessary actions to protect servicemembers, veterans and their families from financial abuse.


Below is a draft Email for sending to all Arizona Congressional District offices, which addresses  why a strong CFPB with a single director is critical to preventing gridlock and ensuring that servicemember, Veterans and their families are protected from financial abuse.



When you are ready to forward the Recommended Message (at the end of this Email) to the offices of our Representatives, an easy way for you to do this is as follows:


  1. Click on “Forward” from this message.
  2. Edit the Recommended Messagethat appears at the end of the new Email if desired.
  3. Enter your name (and retired Rank if you are a Military Retiree) after the word ‘Respectfully‘ at the end of the message. And it is recommended that you include your full address below your name (and phone number if desired) to establish your credibility as a resident of Arizona.Include as much of this information as you may be comfortable with. Then delete all of the text in the new Email from the top of this message down to the top of these instructions
  4. Copy: ‘ House Financial Services Committee Vote on HR 1266 ’ and paste it in place of the original subject of your new Email
  5. Now  copy the column of Staffer Email addresses shown below and paste it on the To:line above (put your cursor on the To: line above and then hit ‘Ctrl’ and ‘V’ simultaneously.. NOTE: If your Email system has problems with Email address separated by semicolon, change the semi-colons to commas.
  6. Then(very importantly)  high light the blue line shown below (just above the salutation and text of the Recommended Message) and everything above it
  7. Then hit “Delete”on your keyboard . That will leave just the message (edited as may have been desired) that now appears below where the blue line was as the text of your new Email. Be sure nothing appears before the salutation of the message, and that you have put your name and desired detail at the end of the message.
  8. Then you can hit “Send” to send your Email.


NOTE: If you should have any problems with any addresses (or get a rejection when trying to send your Email – just delete the problem address) and/or if you want to make a personal call to your Representative’s staffer on this issue, their phone numbers are also shown below


Another way to send that message is as follows:

  1. Copy and enter: House Financial Services Committee Vote on HR 1266 as the Subject for a new Email


  1. Copy the Recommended Messagebelow and paste it in the body of a new Email,


  1. Edit the draft text as may be desired and add your name at the end. And if desired (recommended), below your name add your home address, Email address and/or phone number if desired.


  1. Copy the column of Staffer Email addressesshown below and paste it on the To: line of a new Email.


  1. Be sure that only the message to our Representative’s staffer appears as the text of your message, with your name at the end.


  1. Then hit “Send” to send your Email.



Collectively we camaka difference



Arizona House of Representatives Staffer Email Addresses 



Franks, Trent     Stephanie Hammond Legislative Director stephanie.hammond@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-4576
Gallego, Ruben     Matthew Lee Legislative Director matt.lee2@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-4065
Gosar, Paul     Michael Mansour Legislative Assistant michael.mansour@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-2315
Grijalva, Raúl M.     Kelsey Mishkin Legislative Director kelsey.mishkin@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-2435
Kirkpatrick, Ann     Kenneth Montoya Legislative Director ken.montoya@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-3361
McSally, Martha     Aaron Falk Military Legislative Assistant aaron.falk@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-2542
Salmon, Matt     Greg Safsten Legislative Assistant greg.safsten@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-2635
Schweikert, David     Michelle Stoika Legislative Aide michelle.stoika@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-2190
Sinema, Kyrsten     Alyssa Marois Legislative Assistant alyssa.marois@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-9888



Recommended Message



Dear Staffer, please pass to your Congressional District Representative today.


Dear Representative,


While I may not be one of your constituents, I am sure that the concerns of Veterans statewide is of concern to you.  I am therefore reaching out to you to express my concern about HR 1266,


HR 1266 will weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by changing its leadership structure from a single director to a commission (see  http://1.usa.gov/1h2TVis).  Nearly every other bank regulator has a single director confirmed by and accountable to Congress.  When regulators are structured as a commission, they often suffer from gridlock and unfilled positions that result from partisan in-fighting.  As a result of its single director leadership structure, the CFPB has completed its mandated rulemakings on time and has the independence to take decisive action to protect consumers before bad practices threaten the economy.  This bill will also make it more difficult to take the necessary actions to protect servicemembers, veterans and their families from financial abuse.  Likewise, we are very concerned about possible amendments to other Legislation that seek to achieve the same harmful goal of HR 1266 and urge you to oppose both the bill and any similar amendments that weaken the CFPB.


I would like to particularly note the impressive track record of the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs and its work protecting servicemembers, veterans and their families from financial abuse.


A strong CFPB is critical to ensuring that lenders comply with new military financial protections:  The CFPB has enforcement authority for the Military Lending Act, which was recently strengthened by the Department to Defense to close loopholes that allowed payday and car title lenders to target servicemembers with predatory loans.  Examples of predatory loans that were made to servicemembers by abusing loopholes in the previous rules are available starting on page 31: http://bit.ly/1QDzSUb.


The CFPB continues to find violations of the Servicemember Civil Relief (SCRA) Act.  The Office of Servicemember Affairs continues to document cases where servicemembers are not getting the critical interest rate protections on debts occurred before military service or protections against default judgments while deployed.  One servicemember received an interest rate hike on his student loans and was unable to obtain the SCRA-mandated interest reduction even after repeated attempts. In another instance, a credit card company improperly sought a default judgment against a servicemember while he was deployed which affected his security clearance – a practice prohibited by the SCRA. (See http://bit.ly/1ekcgqh).


Servicemembers, veterans and their families continue to turn to the CFPB for help with financial issues.  Servicemember, veteran and dependent complaints to the CFPB have risen steadily since July 2011. In 2014, the CFPB received more than 17,000 complaints from servicemembers, veterans, and their family members.  In response to abusive practices, the CFPB has recovered more than $1.6 million in damages.  (see:  http://1.usa.gov/1glhB1Y).


I am asking you to urge your House colleagues who will be voting on this Bill in the House Financial Services Committee’ on Wednesday 30 Sep 2015 to vote in  opposition to HR 1266 and any other effort to weaken the CFPB or put servicemembers, veterans and their families at risk of financial abuse.