We have no Action Items today
Summary of Issues
At Issue 1. we see GIVE TROOPS THE PAY THEY DESERVE. MOAA President takes to Defense One to urge lawmakers to protect military benefits. As recruitment slips, it’s clear we need to give our troops a raise.(See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 2. we see. WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF A FISCAL TRAIN WRECK? Budget negotiations take a dramatic turn as House Speaker John Boehner resigns. Congress buys (only a little) time on contentious issues. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 3. we see. LEGISLATIVE CHAMPION RETIRES. MOAA salutes true military advocate. Dedication and hard work led to many legislative victories. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 4. we see WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO FIX THE VA? Commission meets to asses VA health care. A new commission undertakes an ambitious plan on VA care for the next century. (See Issue 4 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 5. we see LET MOAA MAKE YOUR YEAR. Want to win a vacation to the destination of your choice? This is a limited-time offer. Enter and share before time runs out. Refer friends to gain more entries. (Click on LET MOAA MAKE YOUR YEAR 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
Issue 1. GIVE TROOPS THE PAY THEY DESERVE
September 18, 2015 By Norb Ryan
Norb Ryan, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral, is president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, or MOAA. Full Bio
The Senate is all that stands between troops and the pay and benefits they actually deserve. Military families have done enough and the future force is at stake.
At a time when the United States is conducting dangerous operations across the globe, it is incredibly disappointing to see President Barack Obama’s administration and key defense lawmakers champion the degradation of pay and benefits to the one weapon that has never let us down: our men and women in uniform.
Equally disheartening, the president recently told Congress he intends to cap the military pay raise a full percentage point below inflation. When will this erosion of pay for the all-volunteer force stop?
The Military Officers Association of America, or MOAA, holds out hope those in Congress will make the right decision to support the troops during the upcoming defense bill debate.
MOAA is not oblivious to the burden sequestration has forced on defense planners. Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army would be unable to fulfill its mission if sequestration continues.
The declining morale in the force is real. Last year, troops reported lower overall job satisfaction and declining interest in reenlistment last year. In February, the services’ top enlisted gave Congress the same warning.
Look at the situation from the troops’ perspective: frequent and dangerous long deployments; lower pay; higher costs for food, housing, and health care; not to mention the uncertainty of getting a pink slip downrange – or worse. Is this the kind of environment you’d want to work and live in or have your spouse exposed to?
Unless the House’s position prevails in the ongoing conference with the Senate, military families will face a third straight year of pay caps. The last five pay raises have been the smallest in the history of the all-volunteer force. Add to that another year of depressed housing allowances, higher prices at on-base stores due to hundreds of millions of dollars being slashed from the commissary budget, and proposals to make retirees pay more for health care.
Military families have done their part with selfless service and sacrifice over a decade-plus of combat operations. They remain resilient, but with continued calls to erode pay and benefits, cracks are starting to show. For only the third time in 20 years, the Army may fall short of its recruitment numbers, USA Today reported.
Retirees have also shared in the sacrifice. Since 2011, beneficiaries have seen TRICARE Prime enrollment fees increase by 23 percent (2011 and 2015 figures), double the rate of inflation over the same period. Over the same time span, TRICARE beneficiaries’’ retail pharmacy copays have risen by a whopping 145 percent.
Pitting readiness against personnel is a false choice and a breach of faith. Anyone who has conducted a foot patrol on the streets of Iraq or dealt with tribal leaders in Afghanistan can tell you once trust is breached, you lose the hearts and minds of those around you.
The solution is simple: Congress needs to support both readiness and the people programs necessary to sustain the force. It is not a case of one or the other.
At a time when voices across America say that sustaining our armed forces is Job One, Senate lawmakers remain the main obstacle to passing a commonsense defense budget that protects both the nation and the men and women who serve to protect it. The administration’s and Senate’s ill-advised stance on total military compensation threatens to undermine the future of the all-volunteer force.
The military community wants to be part of the solution, and it has been – but when is enough, enough?
September 25, 2015
Following the surprise announcement by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he will resign at the end of next month, lawmakers threatening a government shutdown agreed to a funding proposal to keep the government running – for now.
“The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
House and Senate leaders now seem poised to agree on a “clean” temporary continuing resolution (CR) next week that would keep the government running until Dec. 11. It would simply continue funding at current-year levels, with no controversial amendments.
But the short-term CR is only the tip of the political iceberg looming ahead.
To start with, no one knows if the post-Boehner House leadership will take an even harder line on budget issues.
In the Senate, Republicans still have differences over the way forward. Some think there could be another short- or long-term CR after Dec. 11. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he won’t vote for any more continuing resolutions because that would hurt national defense.
Behind the scenes, there is talk of a “grand bargain” to raise budget caps and end sequestration, which has been a major sore spot for the entire government, especially defense, since 2011. Sequestration prevents responsible planning and budgeting. But any grand bargain also will be highly controversial, and the roiling of House leadership only adds to the uncertainty.
If that weren’t enough, Congress must act on several more contentious bills before Christmas, including:
- The annual defense bill
- A massive highway bill to make emergency infrastructure improvements
- A bill to extend important expiring tax breaks
- Legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling and avoid national default
The key question: Can Congress overcome politics long enough to avoid a fiscal train wreck in December?
– See more at: http://www.moaa.org/Content/Take-Action/Top-Issues/Currently-Serving/What-Are-the-Odds-of-a-Fiscal-Train-Wreck-.aspx#sthash.Wt1Y8W9R.dpuf
(Click on THREE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CONTINUING RESOLUTIONS here or above to see the CR trend over the past 16 years. GF)
Issue 3. LEGISLATIVE CHAMPION RETIRES
September 25, 2015
Our very best wishes go with Col Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, who recently departed MOAA to take a new position with the United States Air Force. Mike was selected as Director in 2013 upon the retirement of Col Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret), after serving 8 years as Steve’s deputy.
Although Mike wished to avoid a fuss over his departure, we can’t let this event pass without recounting the many important accomplishments achieved under his leadership.
On his watch, MOAA worked and won repeal of unfair COLA reductions imposed on retirees and survivors; blocked a proposed $1 billion cut to the federal subsidy for the Defense Commissary Agency; and blunted a large proposed reduction of Basic Allowance for Housing for servicemembers.
On the health care front, he led successful charges to block consolidation of TRICARE health plans into a single plan with less choice, won permanent legislative relief from annual threats of 25 percent cuts in Medicare and TRICARE payments, and blocked proposals to means-test TRICARE Prime and TRICARE for Life fees.
In his earlier role as deputy director, he authored and led a successful legislative effort to correct legislation that significantly undercompensated thousands of disabled recipients of Combat Related Special Compensation.
For MOAA and as Co-Chair of the 31-association Military Coalition, Mike testified before the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission, the House and Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittees, the House Government and Oversight Committee, and the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.
His extraordinary leadership, insights, and compelling analysis helped improve the quality of life for millions of current and future members of the military community.
We wish Mike continued great success in the next chapter of his career, and appreciate Steve Strobridge’s willingness to be recalled to this key MOAA leadership position.
Issue 4. WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO FIX THE VA?
September 25, 2015
For the first time in a generation, a congressionally mandated commission will meet to address the future of VA health care.
After news broke of the VA Phoenix medical center scandal last spring, MOAA wrote a letter to the president and leaders of the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees to say bureaucratic red tape and gross inefficiencies preventing veterans from accessing care required immediate attention.
MOAA called for an independent, bipartisan commission made up of leading public and private experts on health care to examine the 21stcentury of VA health care.
Lawmakers heard our message and passed the Veterans Choice Act, which established the VA Commission on Care.
Former MOAA Board of Directors member RADM Joyce Johnson, USPHS (Ret) was one of the presidential appointees to the commission.
Lawmakers also called for an independent study to look at the delivery systems and management processes of the VA Health Administration (VHA), in order to provide a holistic view of the system and its relationship within the VA.
According to the group’s findings, and statements by top leaders in VA, simply buying more care through civilian health provider networks won’t fix the VHA.
Three main themes emerged from the Commission’s first meeting:
- It will take time
“The kind of transformational change necessary will be a herculean task that requires sustained commitment,” said Cdr. Rene Campos, USN (Ret), MOAA Deputy Director of Government Relations. “Cultural change is needed at all levels in the VA. This will take years to achieve.”
- It will take vision
An integrated system-wide approach that recognizes VHA’s role within both the VA and the broader American health care system is needed. This will require top talent to manage both the current and future needs of veterans.
- It will take change
The report found that “Leaders are not fully empowered due to a lack of clear authority, priorities, and roles; they work in a culture of growing risk aversion and distrust.” This leads to a disconnect in both operations and execution. By empowering leaders and providing a shared sense of urgency, VHA can create a patient-centric culture and a transparent, data-driven management system.
The last major review of VA health care delivery was conducted in the 1990s. It established benchmarks and metrics on the quality of care. It also shed light on other issues such as the disability claims backlog. That study’s findings helped the VA lower wait times and cut annual operating costs, while treating more patients and providing higher patient satisfaction.
MOAA looks forward to working with members of the commission, Congress, and the administration to advance the commission’s goals. It’s vital that we forge a roadmap to reform VA health care to ensure world-class access and care to our nation’s veterans and their family members.
That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!