*Legislative Update 7 August 2015: MOAA vs. The New York Times

We have 1 Action Item today at Issue 3 below



Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see MOAA vs. THE NEW YORK TIMES . MOAA fights back against calls to cut defense spending. MOAA president takes editorial board to task over their support to cut 40,000 troops. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF) 

At Issue 2. we see LEGAL GLITCH COULD AFFECT YOUR MEDICARE PREMIUMS. Not all social programs are created equal. For some, Medicare rates could spike this fall.(See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 3. we see IMPROVED ECONOMY HURTS RECRUITINGArmy falling short of goals. As the economy picks up, are the services in trouble? (See Issue 3 below for the details and to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 4. we see WINDING ROAD TO FIX THE VA. Lawmakers use highway bill to keep the VA open.  Hospital closures prevented for now. (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





Is It Wise to Cut Military Spending?

Aug. 3, 2015

To the Editor:

Re “Military Cutbacks Make Sense” (editorial, July 25):

(Click on  Military Cutbacks Make Sense here or above for the details. GF) 

Arguing that the United States has routinely drawn down personnel after major conflicts doesn’t recognize that this peace-dividend-cutting approach has consistently left the military ill prepared for the next major conflict.

This reduction of 40,000 troops is a direct result of the 2011 Budget Control Act and the resulting sequestration, which disproportionately affected the Pentagon’s budget and fails to align with our national military strategy.

I agree that additional defense savings could come from sensible base closings, revamping acquisition, controlling civilian growth and reforming medical care. But sequestration is forcing the Pentagon leadership to leverage people to meet the budget caps. Going below 450,000 soldiers will put national security at unacceptable risk.

The all-volunteer force is paying the price, watching its hard-earned benefits erode with fewer troops left to do the mission. As a result, the all-volunteer force is on a worrisome slope: too few troops, higher personnel requirements and deployments, and degraded compensation. A result is lower morale and poor retention of our top commissioned and noncommissioned officers. It also puts our readiness at risk.


Alexandria, Va.

The writer, a retired vice admiral, is president of the Military Officers Association of America.

To the Editor:

Somehow, fierce deficit hawks who perpetually decry wasteful government spending have a blind spot when it comes to military spending.

Six decades ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the danger of a too-powerful military-industrial complex. Isn’t it simple common sense to realize that a country whose military spending is roughly equal that of the rest of the world combined needs to cut back on its colossal expenditures?


West Windsor, N.J.

To the Editor:

David Vine (“Shut Bases There, Save Money Here,” Op-Ed, July 27) treats bases as mere military holding areas, overlooking their utility in military readiness and foreign policy. (Click on  Shut Bases There, Save Money Here here or above for the details. GF) 


Military readiness faces constant entropy, requiring manning, training and equipping support. Overseas bases provide that support, allowing forces to spend less time in transit and more time forward: deterring, reassuring and reacting. No study disavows the faster response or impact of forces already on scene; it’s physics.

Allied interoperability is built as we observe our adversaries and cultivate crisis-avoiding normalization. What bases in the United States lack in forward presence they gain in lower costs and the engagement they provide between local communities and their warfighters.

Basing in general provides strategic flexibility. A proliferation of bases decreases risk, creating redundancy if facilities are disabled or harbors blocked. Because of increasing demands and decreasing resources, bases have been deprioritized and may seem a burden. But those who see robust basing as a luxury do not understand the critical utility of their services, locations and number.


Norfolk, Va.

The writer, a Navy lieutenant, is president of the Center for International Maritime Security. His opinions are his own and do not represent those of the United States Navy or the Defense Department.



August 7, 2015

Nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could see a 50-percent rise in Medicare Part B premiums next year. The legal provision in place to protect beneficiaries from premium increases higher than cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), inadvertently excludes this group.

How this works:

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which is used to calculate the COLA for Social Security, veteran and survivor benefits, and military and federal retiree pay, currently remains at minus 0.2 percent for the first three quarters of the fiscal year.

The average CPI-W for the current quarter (July through September) will determine whether there will be a 2016 COLA increase.

If there isn’t a COLA increase, the “hold harmless” provision takes effect. This provision prohibits premium increases higher than COLA.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “approximately 70 percent of beneficiaries are expected not to see a premium increase in 2016.”

However, because of a glitch in the law, 30 percent of beneficiaries are not protected by the hold harmless provision and would see a steep Part B premium increase. This group includes those who enter the Medicare system next year; those who pay their Medicare premiums directly instead of having them deducted through Social Security; or those who are making at least $85,000 for an individual and $170,000 for a married couple.

Federal retirees who retired under the older Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) are a large portion of those who may be affected. Under CSRS, there is no Social Security benefit and Medicare premiums are paid directly. Although many federal retirees are now under the newer Federal Employees Retirement System, most federal workers who began civil service prior to Jan. 1, 1987, fall under CSRS.

A similar scenario took place in 2010 and 2011, which was the last time COLA did not increase. During that time, there was some congressional movement to protect the individuals who were not covered by the hold harmless provision, but Congress did not end up passing any legislation.

MOAA is looking for a congressional champion to prevent this from happening again. Additionally, continue to stay up-to-date on current COLA levels at MOAA’s COLA watch page.

(Click on  MOAA’s COLA watch page here or above for the details. GF) 


August 7, 2015

The Army is having trouble reaching its recruiting goals this year, currently falling 14-percent short.

As the economy continues to strengthen and the unemployment rate dips down to 5.3 percent, the Army faces tough competition to sign new recruits.

Although new recruits are necessary for combat and support units, the Army is required to reduce its size by 40,000 over the next several years. Unfortunately, in addition to strong private-sector competition, potential recruits are also witnessing a severe drawdown that is creating angst among those currently serving and their families.

“It is a challenging mission, and we’re not going to get around that,” said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commander of Army Recruiting Command.

Despite missing midyear projections, Army leadership is hopeful they will meet the goal of 59,000 new recruits by the end of the fiscal year.

Amid these recruiting challenges, Congress continues to push for balancing the budget on the backs of the military. Chipping away at pay and benefits will only make recruiting more difficult.

“Potential recruits are paying attention,” said Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret), a MOAA deputy director of Government Relations. “If the Army expects to meet recruitment levels now and in the future, we need to make sure we take care of those who serve.”

Congress is still debating the FY 2016 defense bill. Please send your elected officials a  MOAA-suggested message today, and urge them not to cut military benefits and compensation.

(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)

August 7, 2015

Shortly before heading into a month long recess, Congress provided the VA with the $3.3 billion needed to keep hospitals open through the rest of the year.

The measure, attached to a highway funding bill, helps address a budget crisis that has been brewing this year due to increased demand from veterans for health care.

Last week, VA Secretary Bob McDonald told lawmakers that despite the increased funding in VA health care, he lacked the authority to spend the money where it is needed most.

“This legislation addresses the VA’s budget shortfall by reorganizing money [the VA] already [has] to better meet the needs of veterans,” said Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

Relief comes just days before the VA would be forced to close medical facilities, disrupting health care for millions of veterans.

The bill also contains important changes to the Choice Program, such as allowing the agency to waive the current 30-day wait time for veterans, increasing the number of providers in the program, and changing the distance requirements for receiving care.

The VA must provide a plan to Congress by Nov. 1 on how it will consolidate all non-VA care programs into one program


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 Reject Military Pay and Benefits Cuts
  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. 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!