*Legislative Update 21 August 2015: COLA Future Fizzles

We have 1 Action Item today at Issue 2 below



Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see ACT NOW TO BLOCK BIG RX FEE HIKESCongress is considering drastic pharmacy fee increases for servicemembers and retirees. Pharmacy fees will increase 66 to 75 percent.  (See Issue 2 below for some additional detail and to send messages to your Legislators. GF) 

At Issue 2. we see NICKEL AND DIMING REALLY ADDS UP. TRICARE beneficiaries continue to be easy targets in budget balancing schemes. In his August edition of “The Bottom Line,” MOAA Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) looks at how DoD makes you pay for health care. (See Issue 2 below for the details and to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see COLA FUTURE FIZZLES July Consumer Price Index remains below baseline. Follow trends on MOAA’s COLA Watch.(Click on COLA FUTURE FIZZLES here or above for the details . GF)

At Issue 4. we see SIX WEEKS TO SHUTDOWN? Deadline looms without federal budget. With no budget deal in sight, MOAA outlines some of the options Congress has to avoid a shutdown.  (See Issue 4 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 5. we see PRIORITIZE MILITARY MENTAL WELLNESS  MOAA and WWP co-host the 2015 Warrior-Family Symposium in Washington D.C. Join the discussion on September 9. (Click on PRIORITIZE MILITARY MENTAL WELLNESS 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





August 21, 2015

By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret)

TRICARE beneficiaries are doing more than their fair share to decrease military personnel costs.

Last year alone, beneficiaries were responsible for 80 percent of the savings achieved by the Defense Health Agency (DHA). Singling out beneficiaries instead of cutting costs within the DoD continues to be the fiscal answer for the Pentagon and for some members of Congress, who are poised to increase TRICARE fees in this year’s defense bill.

Over the past five years, military beneficiaries have shouldered the majority of DoD’s cost cutting initiatives:

  • TRICARE fee increases: Since 2011, TRICARE Prime annual fees and copays have increased 20 percent. Although automatic annual fee increases are now indexed to cost of living adjustments, Congress initially implemented a “one-time catch-up”.
  • Pharmacy copay increases: Pharmacy copays vary by class, but beneficiaries now pay 60 percent more for their medicine than they did in 2011.
  • Home Delivery Program: In 2013, Congress forced TRICARE for Life beneficiaries to refill most maintenance medications by mail order. Imposition of this mandate restricted choice for beneficiaries and reaped huge savings for DoD. Home delivery saved DoD $215 million in 2014 alone. In October, the Home Delivery Program expands to active duty family members and retirees under age 65.
  • Reduction in TRICARE Prime Service Areas: In 2013, changes to regional TRICARE contracts reduced Prime Service Areas to a 40-mile radius from Military Treatment Facilities. Over 180,000 Prime enrollees were transferred into TRICARE Standard. Although Congress passed a one-time exception a year after implementation, tens of thousands of beneficiaries were affected.

The majority of DoD’s savings have been on the backs of beneficiaries. When the department actually finds ways to cut costs, savings are not passed on to the beneficiary.

For example, DoD negotiated federal pricing for pharmaceuticals, and recouped more than $1.3 billion in refunds from overpayments.

Isn’t it strange that, despite DoD paying less for medications, beneficiaries continue to pay more?

In this year’s defense budget, if DoD has its way, pharmacy copays could triple over the next decade.

The Bottom Line: Military beneficiaries continue to pay more and get less. Congress needs to look at other ways to save money before raiding beneficiaries’ wallets.

Act now! Send a MOAA-suggested message  asking Congress to prevent steep pharmacy fee increases in the defense bill.

(Click on MOAA-suggested message here or above or go to Here is the Processat the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)



August 21, 2015

With no federal budget in place, and tough rhetoric from the White House, Congress could be facing another shutdown this fall.

The administration is threatening to veto any legislation that exceeds federal budget caps. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are at odds over the appropriate levels of domestic and defense spending.

When Congress returns from the August recess on Sep. 8, lawmakers will have only 10 legislative working days to avoid a shutdown. What options do lawmakers have?

Pass a budget within constraints imposed by the Budget Control Act

The Budget Control Act, (BCA), a compromise deal reached by lawmakers, imposes strict, arbitrary budget caps on federal spending. Any budget that exceeds the caps triggers sequestration, a meat axe series of budget cuts.

Sequestration is particularly damaging to the defense department. If triggered, DoD will have to find $20 billion to cut from its annual budget next year. Defense leaders have said that sequestration is one of the biggest threats to national security.

Pass a Continuing Resolution

A Continuing Resolution (CR) can keep the government operating at last year’s funding levels while lawmakers continue to work on a compromise. CRs are commonly used to ensure uninterrupted operation of government functions, and can last anywhere from a few hours to an entire fiscal year.

While helpful, a CR limits federal agencies from developing long-term budget plans and strategy. Ironically, CRs often result in cost overruns and government delays, the very things lawmakers try to avoid by passing them.

Craft another Murray-Ryan deal

Some lawmakers have expressed a desire for another Murray-Ryan budget deal. The deal, named after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), resulted in the Bipartisan Budget Act. That legislation raised the budget caps for 2014 and 2015 in return for extending sequestration to 2023.

That temporary fix is set to expire on Sep 30.

While defense planners were thankful for the deal at the time, it simply kicked the can and contained a devastating provision to reduce military retirement. Due to aggressive advocacy by MOAA and its partners, Congress repealed the cuts to military retirement in 2014.

“At this point, the prospect of securing a FY16 budget prior to Oct. 1 looks very dim,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Phil Odom, USAF (Ret). “But it’s imperative that Congress engage in reasonable, bipartisan dialogue when they return in September.”



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 Act Now to Block Big Rx Fee Hikes
  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, VeteransAffairs, 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 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!