Monthly Archives: April 2016

Legislative Update 29 April: 2016: Major Action on TRICARE Fees, SBP, and Much More

We have No Action Items today

Summary of Issues
At Issue 1. we see MOAA PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON HOUSE DEFENSE BILL Where do we stand on the defense bill? Hear our take from MOAA President and CEO, Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret). (Click on MOAA PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON HOUSE DEFENSE BILL here or above to view and listen to the MOAA President’s comments. Turn on your speakers. GF) –There is no Issue 1 below—

At Issue 2. we see MILITARY HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL. House committee proposes major military health care changes. Proposals (mostly) grandfather current beneficiaries from TRICARE fee hikes. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 3. we see HOUSE DEFENSE BILL ADDRESSES SURVIVORS, DIVORCES, DRAFT. House bucks administration’s proposals. After a marathon session, the House Armed Services Committee rejected proposals to cap the military pay raise and cut force levels. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see VETERANS BENEFITS. How the changes proposed will affect you. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee approved a massive bill to shore up accountability in the VA, expand health care access and upgrade benefits. (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


April 29, 2016

In approving its version of the FY 2017 defense authorization bill this week, the House Armed Services Committee included big changes for the military health care system.

On the TRICARE fee front, the bill would apply a new fee structure similar to that proposed by the Pentagon for future service entrants, beginning in 2018.

However, the bill would grandfather currently serving and retired members and families against the large fee hikes proposed in the Pentagon’s FY 2017 defense budget.

Fee increases in future years would be indexed by COLA – the percentage increase in military retired pay rather than the (higher) health care inflation index proposed by the DoD. This is in line with MOAA’s and The Military Coalition’s recommendation.

The bill proposes no changes for TRICARE For Life or TRICARE Prime. It envisions changing the current TRICARE Standard program to a preferred provider system with flat-dollar copays for most doctor visits.

Retired members and families wishing to stay in this updated version of TRICARE Standard (which would be renamed TRICARE Preferred) would need to enroll annually (no enrollment is required at present). An annual enrollment fee of $100/$200 (single/family) will be required of currently retired members on TRICARE Preferred, but wouldn’t start until 2020 – once DoD demonstrates it has improved its capacity to provide timely access to quality care.

The most dramatic change would involve placing all military treatment facilities (MTFs) under the direction of the Defense Health Agency, effective Oct. 1, 2018, for purposes of unified policy, administration, and budgeting. MOAA has long supported this proposal based on the cost and inefficiency of building military health care programs around three separate systems for each of the services.

The bill also establishes a wide variety of requirements intended to enhance beneficiary access to care. This includes extended hours at MTF’s for primary care, providing urgent care until 11 P.M., and authorizing unlimited access to urgent care without a referral. The proposal also creates metrics for quality of care, wait times, provider-to-beneficiary ratios, and provider productivity.

In addition, the bill would authorize military facilities to sell durable medical equipment (e.g., hearing aids) at cost to family members of retirees.

All in all, MOAA supports the HASC’s balanced approach to reforming the military’s health care delivery system and especially appreciates the Committee’s rejection of the large fee increases proposed in the DoD budget.
April 29, 2016

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) followed the lead of the Personnel Subcommittee and rejected administration proposals to cap the military pay raise and cut force levels.

(Click on Personnel Subcommittee here or above for more detail. GF)

After a marathon session, the committee went on to include several other significant provisions in its version of the FY 2017 defense authorization bill on April 27, including the following:

Survivors: extends the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance by one year until Oct. 1, 2018, and keeps the monthly rate at $310. SSIA was established in 2008 to provide incremental relief to survivors affected by the “widows tax.”

Although MOAA is disappointed at the inability to increase the allowance, we’re relieved it won’t be allowed to expire. A one-year extension automatically creates pressure for further action, and committee leaders have pledged to work toward raising the SSIA and phasing out the offset.

The bill also changes the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) calculation for survivors of reserve personnel who die while serving under Inactive Duty Training (IDT) orders to the same (more favorable) method used for deaths on active duty. This is another MOAA-supported issue.

Former Spouses: changes the rules under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) by basing the amount of retired pay to be divided with a former spouse on the servicemember’s grade and years of service at the time of divorce; the change would not be retroactive, but would apply to divorces finalized after this change becomes law. MOAA has long supported this measure.

Women and the draft: requires both men and women reaching age 18 to register with the Selective Service. By a 32-to-30 vote, the committee decided the recent opening of all combat roles to women means they should no longer be exempt from draft registration.

Navy: increases Navy force levels by about 1,700 above the DoD budget request. The bill also changes the name of the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.

The full House of Representatives is expected to consider the HASC mark in May.
April 29, 2016
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee approved a large omnibus package Thursday, which addresses a range of MOAA-supported initiatives.
A key health care section of the “The Veterans First Act” provides a plan to extend special Caregiver Act services for the full-time caregivers of catastrophically disabled veterans from the Vietnam era. Currently, benefits apply only to caregivers for Post-9/11 vets. But the benefits would not be triggered until two years after the VA certifies a successful upgrade of information technology systems to support the expanded services.
Caregiver Act services include training for qualifying caregivers, access to CHAMPVA health care, a stipend, and respite care.
The bill establishes an Office of [VA] Accountability and Whistleblower Protection and tightens disciplinary and removal rules for senior VA executives. It also would require the VA and DoD to jointly update guidelines for the management of opioid therapy for chronic pain in wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans.
The Senate Committee took a different approach than its House counterpart on a controversial cut to the housing allowance under the new GI Bill. The House adopted a 50-percent cut to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for future GI Bill benefit transfers to dependent children (current transfers would be grandfathered at the full rate).
The Senate instead aligned the BAH rate for all qualifying GI Bill users with the five-year cumulative five-percent cut to the rates established in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. GI Bill recipients would continue to get the same housing rate as active duty families at the E-5 with dependents rate.
Other items in the bill that address MOAA-supported goals include:
Strengthening administrative procedures for care for veterans in communities
Authorizing GI Bill eligibility credit for time spent in medical hold status
Creating a pilot program to reduce the appealed claims backlog
Allowing survivors who lost their spouses early in Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts (Sept. 11, 2001 – Dec. 31, 2005) up to five additional years to use their Fry Scholarship GI Bill benefits
Enabling Fry Scholarship users to participate in GI Bill matching by private colleges under the Yellow Ribbon program
Authorizing GI Bill benefits for involuntary Guard – Reserve call ups for “pre-planned and budgeted” operational missions
Enhancing research on the health effects of toxic exposures impacts on descendants
Enabling speedier payment of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for active duty deaths reported by a military service
Honoring as veterans certain career members of the National Guard and Reserve
Panel Chairman Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) noted at the press conference for the bill, “When people look back at what Congress accomplished this year, the Veterans First Act will be at the top of the list.”
The bill must now be reconciled with a House veterans omnibus measure passed last November.


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

*State Veterans Legislative Update 24 April 2016: Your Help is Needed

An amendment to SB 1316 S/E has been introduced as a last ditch effort by the sponsor and predatory lending industry get it through the Senate, and House if it passes in the Senate, and possibly to the Governor for signature this week


Please consider sending the draft message at the end of this Email to all Arizona State Senators and Representatives this weekend to give them a heads up as to what is really happening on this issue.


NOTE: The draft message has a the very long internet link :  that  may appear in two parts in a reduced screen view as it may also appear in your view now. So be advised that it is one continuous link with no spaces. You can click on any portion of the link


Email addresses with Semi-colons for members of the Arizona Senate:



Senate Addresses With Commas:                                                                                                              





Email addresses with Semi-colons for members of the Arizona House of Representatives:;;;;;;;



House Addresses With Commas:,,,,,,,,



               You might want to print this Email now to have the instructions below 

                                     available to facilitate using this process.

Guidance for processing and sending your Email(s).

When you are ready to forward the Message at the end of this text to all State Legislators:


  1. Click on “Forward”from this message. (Note: Clicking on “Forward” does not send the message. It only sets it up to complete the processes below before hitting “Send”).
  2. Then delete all of the Subject line in your new message except for: ’Your Help Is Needed‘.
  3. Edit the message that appears just below the blue line below if desired, and enter your name (and retired Rank if you are a Military Retiree) after the word ‘Respectfully‘. Enter your address if desired, but that might tend to make some Legislators or their staff to delete your message before they read it if you are not a constituent. Consider just adding something like ”Concerned Arizona Veteran” or other phrase of your choosing after your name.  If you are a constituent of one of the Legislators, in addition to sending this Email to all of them, please consider calling their offices with your concerns. Go to or click on www.azleg.govhere. At that site, click on ‘Senate’ or ‘House’ and then on ‘Members’ on the drop down menu) to find their phone numbers.
  4. Copy the above Email addresses with Semi-colons (e.g., high light the addresses of all 30 Senators and then hit ‘Ctrl’ and ‘C’ simultaneously), and paste it on the Bcc: line (put your cursor on the Bcc:line of your new message and then hit ‘Ctrl’ and ‘V’  simultaneously. Then repeat the process in the same message or in a separate message for the State Representatives


If you have problems with your system not allowing so many address at one time, break the groups down into two or more groups for use in sending the messages.

And if your system rejects the use of Semi-colons separating the addresses, follow the above process using the groups of addresses separated by Commas as shown above.

  1. Now High Light the blue line shown below (place your curser just below the blue line) press down and sweep upward acrosseverything above it.
  2. Then hit “Delete” on your keyboard . That will leave just the Draft Messageand your name that now appears below the blue line as the text of your new Email.
  3. 7.Then when you feel comfortable that you have completed all the steps correctly, and have added your nameat the end of the message, you can hit “Send” to send your Email.


Draft Message



Dear State Legislator,


It’s time to listen to your constituents and Arizona voters who put an end to predatory lending in 2008, and ask yourself why you are planning to vote for the current SB1316 S/E amendment if that is what you are planning to do. And kudos to you if you are planning to vote against that amendment. Here are the reasons why I am asking for your vote against the amendment, and encouraging you to ask your colleagues to do the same.


The new amendment to the SB 1316 S/E predatory lending Bill appears to be merely a token effort to try to influence some who have been opposed to the SB 1316 S/E Bill to now consider supporting it. Changing the term for a loan from 24 months to 18 months and reducing the monthly interest rate by a mere 2% per month, from 17% per month to 15% per month (180% APR) on an unsecured loan and from15% per month to 13% per month (156% APR) on a secured loan results in interest payments over the term of the loans that are still unconscionable. That, for example, would be nearly $4900 in interest on an unsecured $2500 loan. And starting off with a first month principle payment of $32.97 vs. the $10.05 payment under the original Bill, it’s even more of a burden on the borrower because of the impact it has on the amount of the monthly loan payments that remain constant over the full term of the loan. 


The amendment also calls for a cap of ten million dollars on a fund to be collected from lenders over 10 years. That money would benevolently provide a ‘Community Development Service Fund’ that the Governor’s “Office for Children, Youth and Families” would use to provide grants to eligible charitable organizations. The grants would be available to provide low interest or zero-interest loans, emergency funds, credit counseling, etc. However, the amendment does not specify the amount of each company’s annual profits that they would be assessed, nor does it specify any minimum amount they would have to pay annually. It appears to be merely a veiled attempt to gain additional support for this Bill, including potential support from charitable organizations (which won’t happen). And even at the ten million cap across all lenders over ten years, it would be a mere drop in the bucket of the predatory lending industry’s expectations of millions of dollars in profits annually from loans to Arizona’s financially distressed. This is all unconscionable, and shows how desperate the usurious predatory lending industry is to get a foothold in Arizona. It’s disturbing to see those who are the major proponents being as adamant as they are about this issue, and it makes one wonder why they have been doing so, and “Because it’s the right thing to do” is not the correct answer. It also makes one curious as to why so many who are currently planning to vote for this bill have been so reluctant to speak out in support for the Bill,. Please vote your conscience and don’t let your name appear as one of those supporters of this predatory lending Bill and proposed amendment.


Please follow the lead of Senator Kinberly Yee and Senator Gail Griffin and Republican and Democrat colleagues in nonpartisan opposition to this amendment to SB 1316 S/E, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.


And below is a link where you can quickly and easily produce a ‘Monthly Amortization Schedule’ for any sized loan offered under this proposed amendment to SB 1316 S/E. They will show that the total of the payments over the term of a loan will be nearly three times the amount of any size unsecured loan. Click on it or copy and paste this link in your browser:


At that site, enter the “Loan Amount”, e.g., $2500; the “Loan Term” in years, e.g., 1.5, and the “Interest Rate (APR)”, e.g., !80% APR (15% interest per month times 12 months) for an unsecured loan. Then click on “Calculate” to see the “Monthly Pay”, e.g., the $407.97 monthly payment (that remains constant over the term of the loan) shown in the upper right hand corner of the screen. And at the location you will also see the “Total of 18 Loan Payments”, e. g., $7,343.38, and the “Total Interest” paid over the term of the loan, e.g., $4,843.38. Then scroll down to see the “Monthly Amortization Schedule” where you will see the monthly details, including the minimal first month principle payment that will have been automatically determined to be $32.97 vs. the $10.05 that you may recall (or can calculate at this link) was determined for a $2500 loan over 24 months at 17% interest per month (204% APR) that was authorized in the original Bill. And as usual, these disturbing details are not revealed in the text of amendment.