We have No Action Items today.
Summary of Issues
At Issue 1. we see TOP GENERALS: ISSUE WOMEN DRAFT CARDS. Women should register for the draft too, say generals.. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 2. we see ANOTHER YEAR OF PAY CAPS. Pentagon pushes pay caps. Fourth consecutive year of pay caps in Pentagon budget. See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 3. we see MTFS: A BALANCE BETWEEN READINESS AND ACCESS . Congress puts military health care under the microscope. Lawmakers scrutinize Military Treatment Facilities at hearing. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 4. we see $100 FOR AN ER VISIT? New proposals emerge on VA care. A House panel held the first of a series of hearings this week on a plan to create a network of providers for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. (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
Issue 1. TOP GENERALS: ISSUE WOMEN DRAFT CARDS
February 5, 2016
The top generals in the Army and Marine Corps told Senate lawmakers that women should be required to register for the draft.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the generals said it would take about three years for women to fully integrate into combat roles, following Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s directive to open up all military jobs to women.
The topic of the hearing was on how the services were moving forward under the new implementation of the full integration directive, but the topic of women and registration for the draft quickly took center stage.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said they believe every physically qualified American should be required to register for the draft. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy were more nuanced in their responses, saying the topic should be put to a national debate.
The service leaders all agreed that they would not lower standards to accommodate women.
Although America officially ended the draft and moved to an all-volunteer force (AVF) in 1973, men between the ages of 18 and 26 still are required to register for the draft to create a pool of eligible recruits in the event of a national emergency. Women have previously not needed to register because they weren’t allowed to fill critical combat specialties.
That has changed, as previously closed military specialties are now open to women.
MOAA is interested in your thoughts on this issue. Please take a moment to provide your input via our brief survey.
(Click on brief survey or on TOP GENERALS: ISSUE WOMEN DRAFT CARDS here or above to participate in the survey. GF)
Issue 2. ANOTHER YEAR OF PAY CAPS
February 5, 2016It’s not official yet, but advance word indicates the Pentagon will propose capping the 2017 military pay raise below the average American’s for the fourth year in a row.
Based on the Employment Cost Index (ECI, the statutory standard for the average American’s pay raise), the military should receive a 2.1 percent pay raise next year. Instead, the Pentagon is proposing a 1.6 percent capped pay raise in its budget proposal, which will be submitted to Congress next week.
That may not seem like a significant cut, but it adds up to hundreds of dollars out of pocket for servicemembers over the course of a year.
The proposed 0.5 percent reduction in pay further expands the pay gap between the military and the private sector. The pay gap now stands at 2.6 percent. If Congress passes the Pentagon raise proposal, it will increase to 3.1 percent.
When military pay raises started being capped in past times of budget constraints, they continued until retention and readiness suffered. This unwise process generated retention crises in the 1970s and the 1990s.
Congress responded over the course of the first decade of this century by gradually plussing up military raises to close the pay gap. But the restoration of pay comparability lasted only a few years before budget stresses caused a return to capping raises, and current budgets assume this trend of undoing Congress’ pay comparability work will continue.
MOAA believes the government should learn from history rather than repeat it. Congress should reject the Pentagon’s proposal for a fourth consecutive year of pay caps, and provide servicemembers the full 2.1 percent pay raise. –
February 5, 2015
As it considers major reforms, Congress continues to examine all components of military health care. On Feb. 3, House lawmakers held a hearing on military treatment facilities (MTF).
MOAA raised the issue of balancing mission readiness and beneficiary access in December testimony to Congress, and this issue was a key question for lawmakers Wednesday. (Click on December testimony to Congress here or above to see details of the testimony. GF)
Military beneficiaries’ continuity of care is disrupted when their primary care doctors or nurse practitioners deploy – especially if it is sudden.
Testifying on behalf of the MTFs were hospital commanders of four facilities representing the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The commanders said balancing resources and training for a variety of missions, good communication with the communities they serve, and placing the right type of providers based on beneficiary demand are all essential for success.
When questioned about beneficiary access, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Commander Capt. Rick Freeman, USN, said different generations of beneficiaries prefer to experience access in different ways. Some prefer access through electronic means, while others favor face-to-face communication.
Mental health care transition from active duty into the VA system continues to be a challenge. From a national perspective, there are not enough mental health providers to meet the demand in many areas.
Witnesses acknowledged MTF access to care can and should be improved, but cited progress. Madigan Army Medical Center Commander Col. Mike Place, USA, emphasized that the 98 percent patient survival rate from the battlefield has been successfully achieved through the superior training of military medical personnel – and most of that training is done in the MTF.
Through MOAA’s and other surveys, the beneficiary access problem has consistently been centered in MTFs. MOAA’s perspective is that fixing the system’s problems will necessarily entail finding ways to increase beneficiary appointments in these facilities.
Maintaining readiness is essential, but so is delivering timely, quality care to all military beneficiaries.
Issue 4. $100 FOR AN ER VISIT?
. February 5, 2016
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) heard from veteran service organizations and the VA on plans to integrate community care programs for enrolled veterans.
Panel Chairman Dan Benishek (R – Mich.), a physician, noted that there are seven community care programs sponsored by the VA. He termed the VA plan to consolidate the programs “bare bones” and expressed concern over the lack of detail in it.
Under the Choice Act, all enrolled veterans get a card to access health care outside of the VA, provided they meet certain distance or time requirements.
Chairman Benishek specifically cited MOAA’s input and agreed that veterans’ access to care should be driven by clinical need, not administrative requirements.VA officials presented a broad outline of their plan to coordinate and integrate care. Community appointments have increased by 36 percent in the past year. The VA supports opening urgent care to veterans and clarifying policies on access to emergency care.
But the VA proposed charging veterans a $50 copay for an urgent care visit and $100 for an emergency room visit. Ranking Member Julia Brownley (D – Calif.) asked for the rationale for the $100 ER copay.
Dr. Baligh Yehia, the lead VA witness, said emergency rooms are clogged with non-emergency care. He said the VA was working on expanding same-day care primary care and using other measures like nurse advice lines to deal with urgent and emergency care.
MOAA strongly supports expanding veterans’ access to urgent care and emergency room care but believes veterans seeking care for service-connected issues should not be burdened with copays. –
That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!