*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




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.


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)




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!