*Legislative Update 31 July 2015: Congress Leaves Without Defense Bill

We have 1 Action Item today at Issue  2 below

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see HOUSE LEAVES TOWN WITHOUT PASSING DEFENSE BILL . Lawmakers skip town as negotiations sour. House and Senate clash over TRICARE fees and commissary funding.

See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see TRICARE FUNDING AT RISK. DoD scrambles as TRICARE funding runs out. Deadline looms as funding nears exhaustion.

(See Issue 2 below for the details and to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see YOUR FEEDBACK IS NEEDEDNew survey seeks input on TRICARE’s Mail Order Pharmacy Policy. Will you act in time?

(Click on YOUR FEEDBACK IS NEEDED here or above to participate in the survey. GF)

At Issue 4. we see TWO BIG NAMES ARE COMING TO MOAAMOAA is the leading voice on military mental wellness

Join VA Secretary Bob McDonald and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Johnny Isakson at MOAA’s Warrior-Family Symposium.

(Click on TWO BIG NAMES ARE COMING TO MOAA here or above  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 HOUSE LEAVES TOWN WITHOUT PASSING DEFENSE BILL  

July 31, 2015

Despite early optimism from lawmakers, Congress was unable to pass a final defense bill before leaving town for a month long summer recess.

Stuck in a stalemate over several key compensation and benefits issues, House and Senate lawmakers will have to return to the negotiation process in September.

The following table shows the compensation and benefits positions of the House- and Senate-passed defense bills:

 

In its initial draft, House lawmakers rejected proposals to nickel and dime servicemembers and their families, but the Senate is pushing to keep them in the final version of the defense bill.

In a reported memo to negotiators, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said, “The House believes it must keep faith with our military retirees and their families and that we should seek to make other improvements in TRICARE before digging more deeply into the pockets of our servicemembers and retirees.”

Senate lawmakers argue that personnel costs are “eating the defense budget alive,” a tired piece of rhetoric MOAA has repeatedly debunked.

The silver lining to Congress failing to pass the defense bill before the August recess is that now you have the chance to influence your lawmakers.

Most elected officials return to their home districts to meet with constituents during the August recess. Use this opportunity to visit your elected officials and discuss:

  • Preventing the further erosion of pay and benefits;
  • Authorizing full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation; and
  • Eliminating the dollar for dollar offset of military survivor pay and VA indemnity compensation.

MOAA has developed fact sheets on these three issues for you to use. For more information, check out our August recess package.

(Click on  August recess package here or above for the details. GF)

 

Issue 2. ARMY 

July 31, 2015

Move over VA.

Weeks after the VA asked Congress for a bailout, DoD has come forward with its own $2 billion budget crisis. Without help, DoD could run out of health care funding for outside treatment. (Click on  (Click on  the VA asked Congress for a bailout here or above for the details. GF)

However, unlike the VA, DoD is not only looking at Congress to bail them out, but for beneficiaries to take on even more costs.

DoD was forced to request additional funding to cover a budget shortfall due to the rising costs of compound medications. DoD revised its compound medication policy in May to curb costs, but the budget shortfall remains.

In its request, DoD says that it is trying to control costs, pointing to its payment reform initiatives. Missing from the narrative, however, are the beneficiary initiatives that have resulted in significant cost savings.

Over the last several years, TRICARE beneficiaries have been forced to accept several health care fee increases and policy changes. Specifically, annual pharmacy copay increases and mandated use of the mail-order pharmacy system for maintenance medications are two initiatives beneficiaries shoulder.

By using the home delivery program and paying more for prescriptions, TRICARE for Life beneficiaries have significantly contributed to 80 percent of the cost savings that the Defense Health Agency has claimed this past year.

Coincidentally, DoD’s request comes as Congress once again wrestles with raising TRICARE copays.

The request only serves to embolden those in Congress who want to shift costs onto servicemembers, retirees, and their families.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon proposed tripling pharmacy copays in its FY16 budget request. House lawmakers rejected the proposal, but the Senate continues to push for the fee increases.

“DoD is long overdue for a serious look at its internal structure and needs to get its budget in control before asking beneficiaries to bail them out,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret).

Act now to send your legislators a MOAA-suggested message  asking them to resist these shortsighted, budget-driven cuts to military pay, health care and 

 (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)

   

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..

 

   

 

   

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

Legislative Update 24 July 2015: Funding Threatens VA Care

We have NO Action Items today.

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see VISIT YOUR LEGISLATORS IN AUGUSTDuring the month of August, most elected officials return to their home districts to meet with constituents.. This is a great opportunity for you to visit your elected officials’ offices and advise them of your and MOAA’s concerns on important matters. We need you help to influence the defense bill. Now is also a perfect opportunity to help make progress on remaining inequities for disabled retirees and surviving spouses. It’s imperative that we let our legislators know how we feel about these topics. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see FUNDING THREATENS VA CAREMillions of veterans to lose access if Congress fails to act. VA funding shortfalls mean that millions of veterans may be at risk. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 3. we see OPM ADMITS MILITARY AFFECTED BY BREACH21.5 million records impacted by hack. OPM director resigns amid backlash. (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

 

ISSUES

Issue 1 VISIT YOUR LEGISLATORS IN AUGUST

July 22, 2015

During the month of August, most elected officials return to their home districts to meet with constituents. This is a great opportunity for you as a MOAA member to visit your elected officials’ offices and advise them of your and MOAA’s concerns on important matters.

We need your help to influence the defense bill. Now is also a perfect opportunity to help make progress on remaining inequities for disabled retirees and surviving spouses. Congress needs to:

  • Prevent further erosion of pay and benefits.
  • Authorize full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation.
  • Eliminate the dollar for dollar offset of military survivor pay and VA indemnity compensation.

It’s imperative that we let our legislators know how we feel about these topics.

These aren’t just “defending our rice bowl” issues; they’re critical matters for sustaining retention and readiness – the core of our national defense – over the long term.

To assist you in preparing for these meetings, we’ve developed fact sheets and talking points on the three key issues listed above.

You don’t have to be an expert on every issue. That’s why we designed the packages as we have – to include a “key points” summary to talk from, along with one-page fact sheets on each issue that you can print and leave with the legislators and/or their staffs.

One of the reasons MOAA has been successful on Capitol Hill is that we have members who are willing to contact their legislators and express their views on issues that are important to them. Leaders who can say “We represent _____ MOAA members in our state” help convey that they’re speaking for a substantial group of constituents.

And the grassroots support of our members has never been as important as it is now.

You can use our website to find your legislators’ local offices.

One-Page Fact Sheets for Three Key Issues 

  1. 1. Reject Military Pay and Benefits Cuts (PDF)
  2. 2. Support Full Concurrent Receipt(PDF)
  3. 3. Eliminate the Widow’s Tax (PDF)

Use this statistical summary (PDF) to highlight the number of people affected in your state.

 (Click respectively on the five blue underlined topics above for the details. GF)

Issue 2. FUNDING THREATENS VA CARE

July 24, 2015

In a contentious hearing, lawmakers accused VA Secretary Bob McDonald of covering up information threatening the health care of millions of veterans.

McDonald said the department faces a $3 billion budget shortfall and, without congressional action, will have to deny access to health care to veterans.

“We’ll have no option at the end of July but to defer … authorizations until October, provide staff furlough notices, notify vendors we cannot pay them as we begin an orderly shutdown of hospitals and clinics all across the country,” said McDonald.

According to McDonald, the VA is struggling to meet the increased demand for health care provided under the Choice Act. The Choice Act allows some veterans to receive health care at non-VA facilities, paid for by the VA.

Passing of the Choice Act has driven up costs for delivering care outside the VA. The Choice Act, along with other community care programs, all have different authorities and budget lines. Currently, VA lacks the authority to move dollars between the programs.

That means that even though Congress has increased overall funding for VA health care, the money has only gone to specific accounts.

“You already appropriated funds to meet these needs, but you haven’t given me the flexibility and authority to use them,” said McDonald.

A victim of its own success, VA has been able to double its capacity in staffing, space, productivity, and delivering care over the past year. This hard work resulted in 7 million more appointments for veterans, 4.5 million of them from outside providers. But the VA estimates that for every one percent increase in veterans accessing health care, it spends $1.5 billion on health care delivery.

The revelation did not sit well with members of Congress.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) chided McDonald for his “slow, painstaking revelation of the crisis” and the department’s financial woes, problems the VA first became aware of in April but failed to inform Congress of until early June.

The fix?

The short-term solution is for Congress to give VA the budget flexibility to address the shortfalls to ensure continued care for veterans.

The long-term solution to VA’s budget problems is to consolidate and streamline all of the VA community care programs. Congress and the VA are working to simplify management of health care services.

MOAA joined with a number of other veterans’ organizations in writing asking committee leaders to resolve the VA’s budget crisis.

The Senate expects to take up the issue next week.

Issue 3. PROTECTING YOUR WALLET

July 24, 2015

President Obama announced new rules to protect servicemembers and their families from predatory lending practices.

The new protections will cover all forms of payday loans as well as other loans that target military members and their families: car title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit and credit cards.

A DoD statement on the change said, “With this action, the department takes an important stand against companies that can prey on our men and women in uniform. This new rule addresses a range of credit products that previously escaped the scope of the regulation, compromising the financial success of our troops.”

MOAA worked with its partners in The Military Coalition to help pass the original Military Lending Act. The original law capped interest rates at 36 percent for a limited number of covered loans to active duty servicemembers and their families.

But payday lenders often found loopholes and other ways to skirt the law.

“Today’s rule change is a major victory for military families,” said Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret.), MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations. “There are more payday lenders in America than there are Starbucks and McDonalds. These institutions prey on vulnerable military families and put them in a cycle of debt.”

The new rule allows for industry compliance by October 1, followed by a staggered implementation period.

For more financial tips and information from MOAA, check out our Financial Frontlines blog.

(Click on Financial Frontlines blog here or above to see the details. GF)

 

 

 

 

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