*Legislative Update 3 June 2016: Act Now on Concurrent Receipt, Pay and Benefits

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

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS  Defense bill amendments needed to address pay and benefit inequities. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send a message to our Senators. GF)


At Issue 2. we see SENATE PANEL: CURTAIL HOUSING ALLOWANCES. System “ripe for abuse”. Senate lawmakers proposed a significant allowance overhaul in its version of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill. (See Issue 2 below for the details and to send a message to our Senators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see COMMISSARY PRIVATIZATIONSenate defense bill would test privatization.  Two senators want to stop the test. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see HOW DOES YOUR MILITARY HOSPITAL OR CLINIC MEASURE UP? Beneficiaries gain more information on their health care system. See how military medical facilities rank on access, results, and care quality. (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




Defense bill amendments needed to address pay and benefit inequities

Please send a MOAA-suggested message urging your senators to support them during Senate consideration next week.

(Click on SUPPORT KEY SENATE AMENDMENTS 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)



June 3, 2016

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) said the current military housing allowance system is “bloated and ripe for abuse” and proposed a significant allowance overhaul in its version of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill (S. 2943).

This took MOAA by surprise, as last year’s Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission – whose findings the SASC used to push changes to retirement and health care – found no issues with the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) program.

Under the SASC proposal, members whose housing costs are less than their allowance would have the allowance reduced, beginning with the first relocation after Jan. 1, 2018.

More significantly, the SASC’s proposal would also reduce the combined value of the housing allowances received by dual military couples and roommates. In effect, each member would receive the applicable housing allowance amount for his or her grade, divided by the number of occupants.

Under federal law, BAH is a main component of Regular Military Compensation (RMC), which is earned by each individual servicemember. Congress worked diligently from the late 1990s through 2007 to strengthen the benefit and reduce the out of pocket expenses borne by servicemembers-which had risen above 20 percent in the past. In 2007, Congress achieved the goal of setting BAH at 100 percent of the median housing cost for each grade.

Under the SASC proposal, troops would only receive enough BAH to offset their actual housing costs and would have to provide proof of their rent and utilities costs.

In effect, this would return to a system used decades ago, when a locality-specific housing allowance was first introduced. After years of struggling with paperwork associated with actual housing costs and the natural tendency of servicemembers to adjust their housing decisions to increase their allowances, DoD and Congress abandoned the actual-cost system in favor of basing allowances on independent studies of housing costs by income for each locality.

MOAA disagrees with the SASC proposal, as do DoD leaders, for several reasons. First, it ignores the lessons of past problems with such a system. Second, it effectively penalizes servicemembers who marry other servicemembers rather than civilians. Finally, it raises problems with dealing with military vs. civilian roommates, and military roommates of different grades. Under the SASC proposal, four military roommates of different grades would each receive one-quarter of the BAH rate applicable to their grade.

MOAA and DoD both believe each servicemember should be entitled to the grade-applicable BAH in his or her own right, and it should be the member’s decision how to use that allowance, including election of military or civilian roommates, without requiring any Pentagon intrusion in those decisions.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced MOAA-supported amendments to delete the SASC BAH changes when the defense bill comes before the full Senate for action next week.

Please use our special alert to send your senators a MOAA-suggested message.

(Click on SENATE PANEL: CURTAIL HOUSING ALLOWANCES here or above and then click on MOAA-suggested message at the end of the page or go to the “Here is the Process” section at the end of this Email to send a second messages to our Senators. GF)



By: Brooke Goldberg Deputy Director, Government Relations. Click to read about the author. About the Author –  Commissary reform has been a long-time goal for many leaders. Last year, we evaded privatization and are still waiting for a congressionally mandated report on options for eliminating reliance on appropriated funds to operate the commissary.

This year, the House version of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 4909) allows for a pilot program to change the pricing structure (variable pricing) at the commissary, with authorization to continue the new structure if it meets the right outcomes for patrons. The House also authorizes the Secretary of Defense to convert the commissaries to a non-appropriated fund activity (like the exchange system) if it can meet certain benchmarks for savings, quality and customer satisfaction, subject to Congressional oversight in the process.

The Senate draft of the defense bill (S. 2943) will be coming up for votes starting next week. Here is what you need to know about the Senate’s view of commissary reform:

  • Price Structure – the Senate wants a pilot program to change the pricing structure similar to the House version. The Senate calls it alternative pricing.
  • Funding– the Senate allows, but doesn’t require, the Secretary of Defense to transfer appropriated funds if benchmarks for savings, quality and customer satisfaction are not met (the House version requires it), nor does it require quarterly reports on meeting those benchmarks (the House version does).
  • Oversight– the Senate does not require the Secretary of Defense to prove benchmarks of savings, quality, and customer satisfaction can be met prior to the conversion to a non-appropriated fund system.
  • Privatization– the Senate wants a pilot program for privatizing the commissaries (not less than two years long at up to five commissaries) and may include a virtual component involving online orders and home delivery. 180 days after the conclusion of the pilot program, a report on the progress of meeting benchmarks for savings, quality and customer satisfaction would be required.

The following amendments have been offered to prevent erosion of the commissary benefit:

  • Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced an amendment to eliminate the draft language allowing for a privatization pilot.
  • Sen. Inhofe also introduced a separate amendment requiring a report on modifying the basic allowance for subsistence to offset the impacts of the price structure changes being introduced.

MOAA supports the House version of the bill that provides more Congressional oversight to ensure preservation of the benefit for patrons and flexibility to find the efficiencies that save taxpayers money. MOAA appreciates and supports Sens. Inhofe’s and Mikulski’s tireless commitment to preserving the commissary, which MOAA members consistently rank among the most important non-pay benefits.


June 03, 2016

The Military Health System (MHS), which includes the TRICARE program, is setting the course to be more open and visible to beneficiaries.

What does this mean?  Military beneficiaries will have access to more information about how military hospitals and clinics rate on selected measures of:

  • patient satisfaction and access to care;
  • health outcomes (information on surgical complications, etc.);
  • patient safety; and
  • quality of care.

This initiative stems from a 2014 review that concluded beneficiaries lacked information regarding system access, quality, and safety. In response, last year’s Defense Authorization Act directed DoD to keep beneficiaries informed about their health system.

The goal is to provide meaningful information for beneficiaries, ensure MHS leaders and staff understand the value and purpose of transparency, and highlight areas that need improvement.

MOAA survey results show variation in care and services has long been an issue in the MHS, and this initial effort is a step in the right direction.

The measures are accessible at www.health.mil/transparency. The site requires some exploring, as there are links to multiple reports.

(Click on www.health.mil/transparency here or above for the details. GF)


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 the first time through the process, and on Military Spouse Re-licensure Assistance the second time through the process, .
  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.
  11. 11. Return to Step 2above and click onMilitary Spouse Re-licensure Assistance the second time through the process.

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