Legislative Update 8 May 2015: House Amendment Would have Spiked Rx Fees

We have 4 Action Items today, one each at Issues 2 and 3, and two at Issue 4 below 



Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see DEFENSE BILL AMENDMENT COULD COST YOU BIG BUCKS. An amendment introduced to the National Defense Authorization Act would impose drastic pharmacy fee increases on servicemembers and retirees. Pharmacy fees will increase 66 to 75 percent. (See Issue 1 below for the brief detail. GF)


At Issue 2. we see CONGRESS PASSES BUDGET RESOLUTION . Blueprint balances budget in ten years This week, the Senate passed a budget resolution for the first time in six years.  .(See Issue 2 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see SENATE UP NEXT TO TACKLE DEFENSEStarting Monday, the Senate begins debate on the FY16 defense bill. What changes are on the horizon? Read More > (See Issue 3 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 4. we see WHITE HOUSE BACKS CHANGES TO SURVIVOR BENEFITS New proposal creates two tiers of coverage. The White House has come out in support of a proposal to change benefits for military survivors. How will military families be affected? (See Issue 4 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 5. we see NEW JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN AND VICE CHAIRMAN NOMINATEDPOTUS taps new leadership. Both men’s nominations have been well received on Capitol Hill. (See Issue 5 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





An amendment introduced to the National Defense Authorization Act would imposes drastic pharmacy fee increases on servicemembers and retirees. Pharmacy fees would increase 66 to 75 percent. This is not right.

However, the House Armed Services Committee wisely rejected proposals to implement additional fee hikes in its mark of the defense bill.  We will watch this one carefully.



May 8, 2015

For the first time in six years, Congress passed a budget resolution. The Senate voted 51-48 along party lines to adopt the budget plan. The House passed its version of the budget submission in late March.

Only two senators broke ranks from their party: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Kent.).

The budget submission increases defense spending above the sequester limits. To avoid triggering the automatic cuts, however, the proposal shifts money to the Pentagon’s war accounts, which are not subject to sequester caps.

The non-binding resolution does not need to go to the White House for signature. It serves more as a blueprint for congressional leaders. The ten-year plan seeks to balance the budget by aggressively cutting government spending and dismantling the president’s signature health care reform.

While MOAA is pleased that the proposed budget provides defense planners some relief from sequestration, we remain concerned about using contingency accounts for normal DoD functions.

DoD agrees. In late March, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that these kinds of budget gimmicks are “undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning.”

It’s unlikely that some of the central pillars of the budget resolution are politically feasible. “What we want to see is Congress come to a common sense solution to provide permanent sequestration relief,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). “If sequestration remains in place, the services will be on the hook for cutting a quarter trillion dollars in just five years.”

Although debt reduction is a national priority, military personnel and their families should not have to shoulder a disproportional share of the rebalancing. They have sacrificed more than any other segment of the American population.

Act now to send your legislators a   MOAA-suggested message  asking them to eliminate sequestration.

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 8, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee begins work on its version of the FY16 defense bill May 11. Working on an ambitious timeline, the committee hopes to complete the bill by the end of the week.

Although work at the subcommittee level will be done in several open sessions, final negotiations will be held behind closed doors.

What is known is that the committee intends to move forward with controversial changes to military retirement. SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the committee has been working closely with House colleagues on retirement modification and expects some type of reform this year.

With support for changes to military retirement in both chambers, it is likely that some version of retirement reform will be sent to the president this fall.

What’s yet to be seen is if the SASC will support the White House’s proposed defense budget – calling for a third year of active duty pay caps, increased costs and reduced choices for military health care, and cuts to housing allowances and commissary benefits – or if it will resemble the defense mark passed last week by the House Armed Services Committee .

Thankfully, the House version of the defense bill rejected many of the proposals from the White House, but with stricter budget rules in the Senate, anything is possible. Without finding ways to pay for the measures supported by the House, the Senate may be forced to accept the administration’s budget-driven proposals.

These measures will continue to erode the very pay and benefits needed to sustain the all-volunteer force.

Please send a   MOAA-suggested message  telling your senators to act now on TRICARE, pay and housing.

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 Senators. GF)



May 8, 2015

The White House supports proposals to change benefits for military survivors.

Support comes after a report made by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), a task force charged with recommending changes to military pay and benefits.

Under the MCRMC proposal, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), a voluntary contribution program providing protection for military retirees’ survivors, would split into two tiers. The first tier continues the program under existing rules. A second, more expensive tier charges higher premiums and eliminates an unfair penalty that forces thousands of military survivors to forfeit their earned benefits. Retirees would have a one-year open season to make a decision on which tier to enroll.

How SBP Works

Military retirement pay ends when the servicemember dies. A large majority of military retirees are survived by their spouses, and SBP provides a way to pass on a portion of military retirement pay to survivors.

Under current law, however, military survivors forfeit part or all of their entire military SBP annuity when receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The two programs are paid for very different purposes: SBP is a program administered by DoD that allows uniformed service retirees to elect coverage to provide continuing financial support for an eligible survivor. DIC is paid to survivors of servicemembers who die while on active duty, or to survivors of retirees who die of a service-connected illness.

In many cases, the offset virtually wipes out any SBP payment, leaving survivors with only DIC, a modest payment of about $15,000 a year.

When military service causes a servicemember’s death, indemnity compensation from the VA should be paid in addition to SBP coverage, not subtracted from it.

Proposed Changes

Under the current system, military retirees contribute up to 6.5 percent of retired pay to ensure their survivors receive up to 55 percent of the sponsor’s retired pay. Premiums continue until the sponsor makes 360 payments and reaches age 70. Automatic coverage is extended to survivors of servicemembers who die on duty.

The new tier increases the premium to 11.25 percent – a 73 percent increase. Survivors of retirees choosing the higher tier option will not be subjected to the SBP-DIC offset.

The change could have a significant impact on the amount of money servicemembers contribute to the program:


“The problem with this proposal is that it asks the folks who will most likely be affected by the offset, those who have significant service-connected health issues, to pay even more in premiums to take care of their loved ones,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Phil Odom, USAF (Ret). “These individuals are likely to have serious issues finding gainful employment after military service. We shouldn’t be asking them to pay even more money for SBP.”

MOAA is also concerned that the new premium is likely to be seen as too expensive for servicemembers, and they may decline SBP coverage altogether. DoD and Congress have worked hard at improving SBP programs over the past 25 years. Participation is currently at record levels and no private insurance on the market can offer equal protection.

The 60,000 Survivor Question

Unfortunately, the proposed changes fail to provide relief for the 60,000 military survivors currently affected by the SBP-DIC offset. These survivors will continue to be penalized by an antiquated Civil War-era law.

“Before we move forward with changes in survivors benefits, it’s imperative that we help the most disadvantaged beneficiaries first,” said Odom.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have introduced legislation to eliminate the SBP-DIC offset.

Take action: please send a MOAA-suggested message asking your legislators to support H.R. 1594  and S. 979  today.

Click on  H.R. 1594   and then on S. 979   here or above or go to Here is the Process: to send messages respectively to your Representative and your Senators. GF)






May 8, 2015

On May 5, President Obama announced new leadership for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president nominated Gen. Joseph Dunford, USMC, to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Paul Selva, USAF, to be the next Vice Chairman.

The nominations are two of the president’s most important national security advisors. They represent the top two senior ranking officers in the military and serve as senior military advisors to the president, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council.

Dunford currently serves as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In announcing Dunford’s nomination, Obama said “I know Joe. I trust him. Joe is a proven leader of our joint force … [h]e is one of our military’s most highly regarded strategic thinkers.”

Selva also brings considerable experience to the table, currently serving as the commander of U.S. Transportation Command. Previously, Selva served as the top military advisor to then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The president said Selva “understands our military, as powerful as it is, is one tool that must be used in concert with all other elements of national power.”

Although the Senate must still confirm the two, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), offered both men praise, indicating in a written statement that their confirmation should not be contentious.

With their confirmations expected in the next few months, Dunford and Selva will be taking the reins in an austere budget environment. With the Pentagon continuing to push cuts to pay and benefits, and Congress moving ahead with overhauling the military retirement system, MOAA hopes both men continue to look out for the best interest of the troops.

“It is important that these men stand up for the troops during the pressures of budget cuts,” said Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret), deputy director for MOAA’s Government Relations Department.

MOAA looks forward to working with Generals Dunford and Selva in the future, and thanks them for the tremendous work they have done for our military.



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 on http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen. Scroll down under “Current Action Alerts” and click on Ask Congress To End Sequestration Now the first time through this process for Issue 1.  The second time through the process for Issue 3, click on Act Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housing.
  2. For Issue 4click here on http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” Scroll down under “Survivor Issues” and click on the titleMilitary Surviving Spouses Equity Act next to HB 1594 the third time through this process. Then come back here and repeat the process and click on the titleEliminate the SBP-DIC Offset next to S. 979 the fourth time through this process.
  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. After hitting “Send Message”at Step 9 above the first time through the process for issue 2, go back to Step 1 and repeat the process for Issue 3After hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above the second and third time through the process, go back to Step 2 to repeat the process twice for issue 4. 

12 For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email, you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above for each issue, that “Printed Letter” is the only 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!