We have no Action Items today
Summary of Issues
At Issue 1. we see MCCAIN AMENDMENT BOOSTS PAY. Amendment would give troops full pay raise. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee disagrees with the administration’s pay cap proposal. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 2. we see HOUSE AND SENATE DIVIDE ON DEFENSE BILL. Senate finalizing defense bill. Strong differences between the House and Senate bills emerge.. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 3. we see SENATORS FILE HUNDREDS OF AMENDMENTS TO DEFENSE BILL. Lawmakers filed hundreds of amendments to must pass piece of legislation. We rolled up our sleeves and dug in to find out how these proposals could affect you. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 4. we see MOAA PAYS RESPECTS AT ARLINGTON This Memorial Day, MOAA takes a moment to remember why we celebrate. (Click on MOAA PAYS RESPECTS AT ARLINGTONhere or above to watch the video. 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. MCCAIN AMENDMENT BOOSTS PAY
May 27, 2016
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) submitted an amendment to the defense bill to give servicemembers the full 2.1 percent pay raise.
The defense bill being debated in the full Senate currently proposes a 1.6 percent pay raise cap as requested by the administration.
In 2003, Congress tied military pay increases to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) to keep military pay competitive with the private sector. Congress recognized that annually raising active duty pay at the same pace as the private sector is essential to sustaining a quality all-volunteer force.
Although this law is still in effect, lawmakers have been capping active duty pay for the last several years. And, if Congress passes the DoD’s proposed 0.5 percent reduction in pay, the pay gap between the military and the private sector would expand to 3.1 percent.
When military pay raises started being capped in past times of budget constraints, they continued until retention and readiness suffered. This unwise process generated retention crises in the 1970s and the 1990s.
After just four years of pay caps, servicemembers stand to lose several thousand dollars.
In a statement regarding his amendment, McCain said, “We ask a lot of our men and women in uniform, and they never let us down. We must not let them down.”
MOAA appreciates Sen. McCain’s acknowledgement of the importance of a full pay raise. We urge the Senate to adopt this provision in the defense bill.
Issue 2. HOUSE AND SENATE DIVIDE ON DEFENSE BILL
May 27, 2016
Senate lawmakers are close to finalizing their version of the FY17 defense authorization bill.
This year’s bill includes several proposed changes to housing allowances. For new entrants after Jan. 1, 2018, and upon the first PCS after that date for those already serving, basic allowance for housing (BAH) would be calculated using the servicemember’s actual housing cost or the BAH rate, whichever is less. The bill also proposes dividing the normal BAH rate by the number of BAH-eligible occupants, meaning dual military couples or roommates could receive a significantly smaller allowance.
BAH for E-5 and below on sea duty would also be eliminated.
The committee also included proposals to change family leave policies. Servicemembers that are primary caregivers would receive six weeks of leave. Secondary caregivers would receive three weeks. This parental leave would be in addition to six weeks of convalescent leave allowed for a servicemember who gives birth.
Senate lawmakers made several changes to TRICARE. In addition to what MOAA previously reported, the committee included provisions:
- establishing Prime only in areas with Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs);
- changing the name of TRICARE Standard to TRICARE Choice;
- giving the Secretary of Defense the authority to adjust prescription copays after 2025;
- allowing the Secretary of Defense to eliminate copays for telehealth services;
- keeping copays at the FY16 rate for chapter 61 medical retirees and survivors whose sponsors died on active duty;
- authorizing the treatment of veterans and civilians in MTFs as needed to maintain operational skills; and
- directing DoD to create a program to improve quality of care in MTFs.
The bill also makes changes to active duty promotions and pay. Promotion boards would be able to identify up to 20 percent of selectees as “top performers” to go to the top of promotion lists, and the services will be authorized to give continuation pay to eligible servicemembers with eight to 12 years of service.
Additionally, the service secretaries will be able to designate specialties to allow officers to serve up to 40 years.
Finally, the bill reduces tenure on the temporary disability retired list from five years to three years and requires an independent assessment of SBP and the feasibility of commercial alternatives.
See the table below for a comparison of key issues between the House and Senate version of the defense bill:
The Senate plans to vote on the defense bill after the Memorial Day holiday. Afterwards, House and Senate lawmakers will begin their work ironing out their respective differences in conference committee.
Issue 3. SENATORS FILE HUNDREDS OF AMENDMENTS TO DEFENSE BILL
May 27, 2016
The Senate Armed Services Committee sent its version of the defense bill to the full Senate for consideration. In just a few days, hundreds of amendments have been introduced.
The following provides a summary of some of the amendments regarding pay and benefits:
- Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) submitted separate amendments authorizing a 2.1 percent pay raise for active duty personnel. Currently, the Senate’s version of the defense bill calls for only a 1.6 percent pay raise, half a percentage point below private sector wage growth.
- Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) offered amendments eliminating proposed reductions in housing allowances.
- Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered a series of amendments on concurrent receipt. The amendments all extend concurrent receipt to disabled retirees and provide lawmakers several options for how to help thousands of retirees suffering from the deduction of military retired pay from VA disability compensation.
- Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) filed an amendment protecting commissaries. His amendment would prevent attempts to privatize commissaries until a congressionally-mandated study is completed.
- Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced an amendment requiring a study on how the Department of Veterans Affairs and DoD can align their pharmacy prescription buying programs to increase their purchasing power and to lower costs.
- Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) filed an amendment ensuring that beneficiaries who lose services through changes to MTF health care programs are able to receive the same care through the purchased care network of the TRICARE program.
- Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) championed an amendment allowing reimbursement of up to $500 for military spouse costs associated with re-licensure and re-certification after PCS to a new state.
The full Senate will consider the amendments when it returns from the Memorial Day break.
That’s it for today- Thanks for your continuing help!