*Legislative Update 20 May 2016: Big News for TRICARE Fee Hikes, COLA, and Survivors

We have 2 Action Items today at Issues 1 & 2  below



Summary of Issues



to watch a 2:37 minute video on these issues. GF)


At Issue 1. we see SENATE PANEL RAISES FEES AND CAPS PAY, BUT HELPS SURVIVORS. Committee accepts most administration proposals to hike health care fees. Urge the Senate to support key amendments that protect and improve military benefits. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send a message to our Senators. GF)

At Issue 2. we see. ADDING INSULT TO (SEVERE) INJURYWhy are we charging the severely disabled for what happened to them? In his May As I See It column, MOAA Director of Government Relations Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret), sounds off on treatment of severely disabled troops. (See Issue 2 below for the details and to send messages to our Legislators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see WILL HOUSE DEFENSE BILL CHANGES AFFECT YOU?  House moves forward on defense bill.  181 Amendments Affect Women, Parents, Children, Reserves, Survivors.(See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

Lastly:  We see. COLA CONTINUES TO CLIMB Is this the light at the end of the no-COLA tunnel?. Follow the trends on MOAA’s COLA Watch.  (Click on COLA CONTINUES TO CLIMB here or above and scroll down to COLA WATCH to see 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




May 20, 2016

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill (S. 2943), and it’s considerably different from the one approved by House lawmakers on a range of issues.

On non-healthcare issues, the bill would:

  • approve force levels recommended in the president’s budget rather than increases like the House bill recommended;
  • make the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance permanent at the $310 monthly rate;
  • provide a 1.6 percent military pay raise (vs. the 2.1 percent House proposal);
  • enable the family to either move early or remain at their current duty station for up to six months while their servicemember begins a new assignment to increase stability under certain circumstances;
  • require a test of privatizing military commissaries at five locations;
  • impose a 25 percent cut in 4-star billets and another 25 percent cut from other flag-officer billets; and
  • require women to register for the draft.

For TRICARE, the Senate bill makes no changes to TRICARE For Life.

But it would adopt most of the DoD-proposed fee increases for other beneficiaries, including:

  • requiring a new annual enrollment fee for TRICARE Standard that would start at $150/$300 (single/family) as of Jan. 1, 2018, and rise to $450/$900 over the next five years;
  • raising the TRICARE Prime annual enrollment fee 24 percent to $350/$700 (single/family);
  • raising the annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses to $1,500 for currently serving families and $4,000 for retired families (vs. current $1,000/$3,000);
  • giving DoD discretion to implement a pilot program authorizing Guard and Reserve members to elect coverage under the auspices of the federal employees health insurance program;
  • eliminating TRICARE Standard deductibles for care from DoD network providers, but doubling the deductible to $300/$600 (single/family) for out-of-network care;
  • changing TRICARE Standard co-pays for various provider visits to a flat fee vs. a percentage of TRICARE-approved charges;
  • adjusting annual enrollment fees by the same percentage as the retired pay COLA;
  • adjusting co-pays and other fees by the Consumer Price Index for Health Care Services established by the Bureau of Labor Statistics;
  • roughly doubling pharmacy copays over a 9-year period, including raising the mail-order copay for generic drugs from the current zero to $11, effective in 2020; and
  • authorizing DoD to collect a “no-show” fee for missed appointments at military medical facilities.

Like the House-passed bill, the Senate bill would move most responsibilities for military health care programs from the Army, Navy, and Air Force to the Defense Health Agency. This would place military medical facilities, healthcare delivery, and personnel and budget responsibilities directly under DoD for unified planning and execution.

The bill also includes a wide range of provisions aimed at improving access and quality of care, including:

  • eliminating referral requirements under TRICARE Prime for urgent and specialty care;
  • requiring a single appointment system for all military medical facilities;
  • expanding telehealth capabilities;
  • requiring a DoD plan to improve pediatric care;
  • allowing military beneficiaries to enroll in federal civilian dental/vision plans; and
  • requiring new accountability standards for military healthcare leaders at all levels.

MOAA appreciates and supports the Senate Armed Services Committee’s efforts to directly address the well-documented access, quality, and efficiency problems of the military health system.

But we believe the proposed beneficiary fee increases are significantly too high and fail to adequately consider the very high non-cash premiums career servicemembers and families are required to pay up-front through decades of service and sacrifice.

Senate leaders plan to bring the defense bill up for full Senate consideration as early as next week.

MOAA has been working with several senators to sponsor important amendments to the bill to protect commissaries, help disabled retirees, and increase the military pay raise.

Please act now to send your senators this MOAA-suggested message.

(Click on MOAA-suggested message here  or above, or go to the “Here is the Process” section at the end of this Email to send messages to our Senators. GF)



By: Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret)Director, Government Relations Click to read about the author.About the Author

Over the past decade-plus of war, we’ve heard time after time about the difficulties severely wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers encounter across a variety of fronts.

There seems to be a never-ending supply of stories about insensitive people and unresponsive bureaucracies making life even tougher for those whose military service already cost them significantly in terms of quality of life.

The good news is well-meaning people at all levels have been making sincere efforts to improve the situation.

Many aren’t making progress as fast as we would hope, and many problems remain to be overcome. But in most cases, active efforts are under way to address the most significant administrative problems.

Two statutory issues, in particular, are proving more problematic.

The first involves the deduction of VA disability compensation from service-earned military retired pay.

Congress has provided some significant relief on that front, prioritizing the most severely disabled and the combat-disabled.

MOAA believes strongly in the principle that no disabled retiree, regardless of disability percentage, should have to fund his or her own disability compensation by forfeiting an equal amount of service-earned retired pay.

But we find it particularly inequitable one group of severely disabled retirees was excluded from any relief: those who were medically retired for noncombat disabilities with less than 20 years of service.

Under current law, a 20-year retiree with a 10-percent combat-related disability (rightly) suffers no retired-pay offset.

But someone who suffers a noncombat service-caused injury that leaves him a 100-percent disabled quadriplegic and is medically retired with two to 19 years’ service must forfeit most or all of his military retired pay under the current VA offset law.

That’s plain wrong. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will offer an amendment to the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill to correct that when the bill comes to the Senate floor, with MOAA’s strong support.

The second statutory inequity stems from the requirement for severely disabled military retirees (including many in their 20s) to enroll in Medicare and pay Medicare Part B premiums of $105 a month.

Had these members not had the misfortune of becoming 100-percent disabled in service, the military would have fully covered their health care until retirement, and they wouldn’t have had to enroll in Medicare until age 65.

MOAA believes 100-percent service-disabled retirees should be exempted from paying Medicare enrollment fees until age 65 or DoD should provide them an allowance to offset the fee.

Both options have proven problematic, mainly for funding reasons.

MOAA understands funding for defense is not unlimited.

What we don’t understand is, of all the things DoD spends money on, why preventing 100-percent disabled retirees and military widows (read “Time to End the Military Widows Tax”) from having to pay extra for having suffered those conditions doesn’t make the cut.

(Click on “Time to End the Military Widows Tax” here or above to read the article, and at the end click on MOAA-suggested message and send a message to our Legislators, GF)



May 20, 2016

On May 18, the full House of Representatives passed its version of the annual defense authorization bill (H.R. 4909) by a vote of 277-147, authorizing $602 billion in defense spending for FY 2017.

The House bill includes force increases for all services, protects currently serving and retired personnel from most TRICARE fee increases, extends the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance for one year, and authorizes a 2.1 percent pay raise.

But final passage took the House two days to wade through 181 proposed amendments. Some of those adopted in the final bill:

  • deleted a provision requiring women to register for the draft, and required a study of selective service registration requirements instead;
  • allow both servicemembers of a dual-military couple to split 36 days of parental leave according to family needs when they adopt a child;
  • restore TRICARE coverage for children with autism to the rates that existed before DoD reduced them on April 1;
  • establish an electronic tour calculator Selected Reserve members can use to track aggregated early retirement credit earned over the course of multiple call-ups;
  • eliminate the two-year limit on continued noncompetitive appointment of military spouses to civil service positions when they accompany their sponsor on service-directed moves; and
  • require a DoD report to Congress on survivor income losses due to deduction of VA survivor benefits from Survivor Benefit Plan annuities


Here is the Process I recommend that you review all of the steps below 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 below Congress click on: Support Key Defense Bill Amendments.
  3. 3.If applicable, at the next screen scroll down to the TAKE ACTION NOW! lineand enter or confirm your Zip code and /or hit “Go!”
  4. 4. Orat that next screen under“COMPOSE MESSAGE” leave the “Message Recipients Delivery Method” as “Email” at your discretion, and then scroll down to “Issue Area” and select an appropriate issue; e.g. ‘Veteran affairs’
  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.
  7. 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 numberif 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 4 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.






That’s it for today- Thanks for your continuing help!