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Bill Would Restore GI Bill for Older Vets 080513

According to an AP report, the Senate may soon vote on whether or not to remove the time limit for GI Bill benefits. Currently veterans have 10 years to use their Montgomery GI Bill (or 15 years to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill). The so-called delimiting date is determined by the veterans last discharge date.

 

Sen. Blumenthal announced his new bill May 28, saying the new bill that would repeal the “unfair and arbitrary time limits.”  Blumenthal said more than 2 million veterans who missed the 10-year expiration date have been denied the benefits despite paying the required Montgomery GI Bill enrollment fee of $1,200.

 

 

Cuts in BAH, TRICARE, Commissaries and More 080513

Defense Secretary Hagel gave a preview of how round two of budget sequestration could rattle current forces if Congress is willing to let the defense budget take hit in FY2014. According to Hagel, the 2014 sequestration will result in a loss in in pay and benefits for servicemembers. The impact will be cuts in Basic Allowance for Housing, O-CONUS cost-of-living allowances, caps on future military pay raises, the end to military commissaries and a modification in TRICARE, which could force younger retirees to use employer offered health care insurance.


MOAA National 072613

 

Defense Spending Bill Clears House
The House passed its version of the FY2014 Defense Appropriations bill on Wednesday. The bill includes funding for mental health and suicide prevention services while also providing the necessary funding to stave off TRICARE fee increases.

 

Key Veterans Bills Advance

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday favorably reported out an ambitious slate of veterans’ health care and benefits bills but other important measures were left unfunded.

 


White House issues veto threat of defense funding bill

Objections include 1.8 percent military pay increase; adminstration says added cost would cut into readiness

 

A veto of a $512.5 billion defense funding bill was threatened Monday by the White House budget office, not so much because of complaints about the level of defense spending but because the Obama administration doesn’t want military spending to rob money from other federal programs.  Additionally, the White House complains the House version of the 2014 defense appropriations bill is too generous with military pay, not generous enough with pay for federal civilian workers, and doesn’t include administration-proposed cost-cutting measures such as base closing and raising Tricare health fees for military retirees.

The veto threat, one of a similar series issued by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget about appropriations bills moving through the House of Representatives, came Monday in regards HR 2397, covering defense spending for the fiscal years that begins Oct 1.  The House and Senate each passed budget and deficit proposals about three months ago, but negotiations on a compromise have stalled because of attempts to set preconditions on talks.

 


Senate panel OKs lower raise, but opposes Tricare hikes

Jun. 11, 2013 - 04:58PM | By Rick Maze  Staff writer

The House and Senate disagree about the size of the 2014 military pay raise but are joined in opposition to yet another plan from the Defense Department to raise Tricare fees.  On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel endorsed an Obama administration proposal that would cap the 2014 basic pay increase at 1 percent.  The House Armed Services Committee approved a 1.8 percent raise last week, creating a difference that will have to be worked out before a final bill passes.  The 1.8 percent raise matches average private-sector pay growth last year, but the Defense Department has pushed for a smaller raise, arguing that when tax-free allowances and other benefits are included, military compensation already exceeds average private-sector wages.

On Tricare fees, the personnel panel rejected the entire Defense Department plan to establish or increase deductibles, fees and copayments, mainly for working-age retirees, just as the House Armed Services Committee did last week.  It is unclear at this point that Congress would change course by adding any of the Tricare fee hikes to the 2014 defense budget, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC., the personnel panel’s ranking Republican member, said he would try when the bill reached the full Senate Armed Services Committee later this week to get at least some of the Pentagon’s fee hikes into the bill.

 


Attack on Benefits 061013

A Washington Post article on the cost of military benefits has created a firestorm of comments on spouse blogs all over the country. Many are asking if the reporter actually believes our servicemembers and military families are a liability to the American taxpayer and how can so many untruths can get printed in one of the nation's largest newspapers? A recent blog post on the Military Officers Association of America website pointed out that personnel costs are not overwhelming the budget; they remained at the same 30% ratio for the last 30 years. MOAA is encouraging our readers to join them in sending the correct facts to Congress.

Read the entire 'Put Down the Ketchup, Pick Up a Pen' post on MOAA's Making it in MilLife(r) Blog.


Reduced-Age Retirement for Guard & Reserve  061013

More reserve-component Soldiers may now be eligible to receive retirement pay before 60, if they meet certain criteria. Soldiers can now count 90 days of their tour toward 90 days earlier retirement for each fiscal year deployed. The new categories include reserve-component Soldiers who are activated to respond to national emergencies and those in warrior transition units who were hurt while mobilized for such responses. Soldiers should check their mobilization orders or their DD-214 discharge paper and see if it lists any one of the following Title 10 or Title 32 U.S. Codes annotated: 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306. Soldiers can receive eligibility information by calling the Army's Human Resources Command at 502-613-8950.


MOAA to SecDef: Pentagon Needs a TRICARE Plan B  May 30, 2013

The Honorable Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-5000


Dear Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of the over 380,000 members of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), I wish to express our concern regarding the effects of the Department’s most recent sequestration projection of a $22 billion reduction in the Operations and Maintenance accounts, which includes a reported $2.6 billion out of the Defense Health Program (DHP).

This
Military Times article highlights that the main burden of healthcare cuts “is likely to fall on TRICARE contracts” and it’s reported that the Pentagon has not provided plans for the rest of the fiscal year if contract payments are exhausted by August.

While MOAA remains deeply apprehensive about both the near and long term effects of these cutbacks in force readiness, training, and steaming and flying hours, to name a few, we are specifically concerned about the lack of healthcare access which would occur with a potential reduction in payments to TRICARE network providers.

As you know, many of our active duty Guard and Reserve troops and active duty family members depend on the TRICARE network of providers for their care and do not have access to a Military Treatment Facility. Experiencing anxiety over whether their family members can obtain healthcare, is the last thing a military troop, deployed or not, should have to feel – it’s unacceptable.

MOAA believes the Pentagon needs a “plan B” for the currently serving family members and it needs to be publicized as soon as possible. For example, the Department has requested and received multiple authorizations for the reprogramming of funds from Congress, which moved billions of dollars from TRICARE accounts into others for the past several years.

Recognizing you have no easy choice left, we feel that reciprocal transfer ability could be applied to TRICARE in this case. As the Department moves forward with reprogramming requests to Congress this summer, we believe this should be given high priority.

MOAA thanks you for your leadership and support of the men and women who wear, and have worn the uniform, and their families.

Sincerely,

adm ryan signature

 


Commissaries Plan Furloughs  060313

When furloughs are implemented, most military commissaries will close one additional day a week. The closures will be for up to 11 days between July 8 and Sept. 30. The 148 stores that routinely close on Mondays would also close the next normal day of operation. Other than the furlough day, there are no other changes planned for store operation hours. Furlough notices are scheduled to be delivered to Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) employees between May 28 and June 5.

 

A congressional representative from another state is introducing legislation to completely eliminate Exchanges and Commissaries claiming it would save $1B annually and that they are an unneeded luxury afforded military & retired personnel at the tax payers expense.


House Panel Rejects Pay Cap and TRICARE Hikes  052913 Terry Howell Stars & Stripes

Servicemembers and military retirees may be pleased to learn that the plan to increase TRICARE enrollment fees and cap military pay increases and may not go as well as the DoD and White House had hoped.

According to a report by Tom Philpott, the House armed services subcommittee on military personnel unanimously rejected the Obama administration’s call to cap the 2014 military pay raise at one percent versus and most of the administration’s plans to increase TRICARE fees.  The only increase that made it through the House panel is plan to increase TRICARE Prime co-pays to $16.


HOWEVER … Now it is up to the Senate Armed Services Committee to come up with its own version of the defense authorization bill next month. Philpott reports that the senate panel is expected to embrace more of the personnel cost controls proposed by the president. Surprisingly support for the administration’s plan appears to have bi-partisan support in the senate as the ranking Republican on the SASC personnel subcommittee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), has voiced support for raising TRICARE fees, IF it helps make TRICARE more sustainable.

Sen. Lindsay Graham supports raising TRICARE FEES.  IF you agree or disagree with his position, call his office, send a letter, or email telling him how you feel about the issue.


STOLEN VALOR now LAW OF THE LAND!

Obama signs bill on lying about military medal June 3, 2013

D. Myles Cullen/Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army

WASHINGTON — The White House says President Barack Obama has signed a bill making it a crime to lie about receiving a military medal.  The Stolen Valor Act cleared both chambers of Congress last month. The White House says Obama signed it Monday.

The measure revives a law struck down by the Supreme Court in 2006. The court said it may be disreputable to lie about receiving a medal, but it's protected under the First Amendment.  The new law is narrower, making it a crime to lie about being decorated with the intent to profit personally or financially. That could include those who claim medals in order to receive veterans benefits, land a government contract or get a job reserved for veterans.

Violators could face up to a year in prison.

 


Bill Would Restore GI Bill for Older Vets  May 30, 2013 | Terry Howell Stars & Stripes

According to an AP report, the Senate may soon have the chance to vote on whether or not to remove the time limit for GI Bill benefits. Currently veterans have 10 years to use their Montgomery GI Bill (or 15 years to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill). The so-called delimiting date is determined by the veterans last discharge date.  Senator Blumenthal announced his new bill on Tuesday May 28, saying the new bill that would repeal the “unfair and arbitrary time limits.”  Blumenthal said more than 2 million veterans who missed the 10-year expiration date have been denied the benefits despite paying the required Montgomery GI Bill enrollment fee of $1,200


While the bill would not have an immediate effect on Post-9/11 vets, it would restore the GI Bill for many Vietnam, Cold-War, and Gulf-War era veterans who were unable to take advantage of their benefits within the 10 years after discharge.




House spending bills neutral on 2014 federal pay raise  Stars & Stripes 052813

 

Spending bills advancing in the House leave open the door for across-the-board pay raises for federal employees in January 2014.  The House Appropriations Committee last week approved separate bills for Veterans Affairs and the Homeland Security that do not endorse a pay raise, but don’t take a stance against one, either.

President Obama has recommended a 1 percent raise for all federal employees, effective January 2014; the last such raise was in January 2010. Since then, pay rates of some employees have not changed while other workers have received raises for promotion, performance, or on successfully completing waiting periods to advance up the steps of a pay grade.

 

 

 

 


House Passes New Stolen Valor Act  May 21, 2013

            The House on Monday overwhelmingly voted for the latest version of the Stolen Valor Act, a law that will make it a crime to don the medals and ribbons that soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are awarded for combat actions.  The legislation passed 309 to three.  A 2005 version of the law was struck down by the Supreme Court last June, when it ruled that lying about military heroics was constitutionally protected speech unless there was intent to gain some benefit or something of value by fraud.

            The House version, like one passed in the Senate in December, includes an “intent to defraud” provision that advocates believe will permit the law to stand up against any court challenge.  “This law is long overdue,” Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., said in a statement released immediately after the vote. Cook is a retired Marine Corps colonel who served in Vietnam, where he received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star Medal for valor. “When people make false claims of military rank and heroism, it does a tremendous disservice not only to our vets, but to the public.”

            The 2005 version of the law was broad, making it a crime to make any false statements claiming military awards and decorations.  A California man, Xavier Alvarez, was convicted under that law for claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine but appealed the case up to the Supreme Court, which struck it down.

            The latest Stolen Valor Act was introduced into the House by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., who called it “fitting” for the House to pass the bill only days ahead of Memorial Day.  “The awards, and the men and women who have earned them, in some cases posthumously, are worthy of the utmost respect and sanctity,” he said in a statement. “Benefitting from lying about receiving one of these awards is an affront to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country."


Who Shot Your Grandfather? MOAA National 051113

When discussing retirement reform, defense leaders state any changes to the system would "grandfather" the existing force. But the Pentagon is more than willing to jack up the other major element of the retirement benefit - health care. In the inaugural edition of his column, "The Bottom Line," MOAA's new Government Relations Director Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), points out the duplicity in such statements.

ALERT … ALERT … DANGER … DANGER

PENTAGON BUDGET SEQUEL:

FY 2014 budget proposal that includes a sequestration “de-trigger” mechanism, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee have asked the Pentagon to go back to the drawing board and submit an alternative plan that’s $52 billion less than the administration’s original submission. Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a letter late last week to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking for a scaled-back budget plan by July 1.

The two senators noted that, to date, little progress has been made toward finding a bipartisan agreement to avoid sequestration for FY 2014. Without an agreement, the Pentagon faces another $52 billion in across-the-board cuts established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Both senators hope highlighting the devastating nature of the cuts will help force discussion and eventually lead Congress to pass legislation to avert another round of sequestration. However, by requesting the Pentagon submit a more “workable” plan, it leaves the impression the senators would be willing to support a plan that gives the department additional budgeting flexibility in order to offset the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts.

“We recognize that it will not be easy to put together such a package,” Levin and Inhofe wrote. “In our view, however, a concrete demonstration of the painful choices the department would have to make to cut $52 billion from its budget may be our last, best hope of avoiding sequestration altogether.”

The current budget proposal calls for a currently serving pay cap and disproportional TRICARE fees hikes.

We will have to wait to see what exactly will be included in the alternative, sequester-driven budget report, but you can be assured it won’t be pretty.


Future Retirement Pay Raises In Jeopardy MOAA National 042613

During last week's Storming the Hill events, MOAA stormers pushed legislators to sustain the 1.8% currently serving pay raise to keep pace with private sector pay growth. Those efforts did not go unnoticed. MOAA's position was highlighted in a USA Today article.
In 2003, Congress explicitly tied annual pay raises to private sector pay growth as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Cost Index (ECI). The Pentagon has proposed capping the 2014 military pay raise below ECI at 1% - a
raise that would be the smallest since the inception of the All-Volunteer Force. History shows that once pay caps start, they continue until they undermine readiness and retention.
Pentagon leaders are not advocating for your congressionally-mandated pay raise...but MOAA is. Join the fight for military pay by sending your legislators a
MOAA-suggested message.


TRICARE Rx Co-Pays to Climb April 22, 2013

Defense officials have a 10-year plan to boost co-payments on military family members and retirees who use TRICARE retail and mail order pharmacies. For example, the current $17 co-pay collected at retail outlets for 30-day prescriptions of brand name drugs found on the military formulary would increase to $26 on Oct. 1. The retail co-pay then would be increased by $2 every October through 2017 and possibly for five years longer because budget document refers to a 10-year phase-in plan.

TRICARE and New Emergency Centers April 22, 2013

TRICARE beneficiaries may have noticed new kinds of "Emergency Centers" popping up in their area. Free-standing emergency rooms (ER) that are not affiliated with a hospital may not be TRICARE-authorized, which can leave a beneficiary stuck with a big bill. Beneficiaries need to "know before you go." Check a free-standing ER's TRICARE status -- before emergency care is needed. Beneficiaries can check if a provider is TRICARE-authorized by calling their regional contractor. Contact information for regional contractors is available on the TRICARE website at www.tricare.mil/contactus. All TRICARE network providers are also searchable at www.tricare.mil/findaprovider. Learn more about emergency care under TRICARE on the TRICARE Emergency Care webpage at www.tricare.mil/emergency.


MOAA Stands Up For Beneficiaries at Senate Hearing MOAA National 041913

On Wednesday 17 April, the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing on military pay, TRICARE, and much more...with MOAA Government Relations Director Steve Strobridge as a key witness.

At the outset of the hearing, Ranking Minority Member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted, “I’m very interested in TRICARE,” noting costs have increased from $19 billion in 2001 to $49.4 billion for FY14. “To the beneficiary community, I certainly want to listen to your concerns,” he said. “…But I’m looking for sustainability.”

To see the complete article, click on the subject line above.

 


DEFENSE BUDGET: Tricare Fees & Pay Caps MOAA National 12APR2013

President Obama released the administration’s FY2014 defense budget proposal on Wednesday – including $43 billion in cuts aimed at reducing our nation’s debt. His proposal reduces outyear spending more moderately than the sequestration budget cuts required by current law. Overall, the proposed budget is an attempt at a “grand bargain” on debt reduction. To reach that elusive grand bargain, the 2014 budget includes the adoption of a “Chained CPI” (C-CPI) formula for reducing cost of living adjustments (COLA) on military retirement, VA disability, Social Security benefits, and other federal annuities, as well as increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy persons.

The DoD budget request totals $526.6 billion and lowers spending for weapons systems, caps the 2014 military pay raise at 1%, proposes a new round of base closures in 2015, and seeks dramatically higher TRICARE fees. The Pentagon is again seeking to reduce TRICARE health care costs by increasing enrollment fees, co-pays and deductibles for military retirees, shifting $25 billion in costs to military beneficiaries over 10 years. Specifically the proposal would:

  • Increase annual TRICARE fees by $1,000 or more for retired families of all ages, including new enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE For Life (TFL)
  • Means-test TRICARE Prime and TFL fees, based on retired pay
  • Double most pharmacy copays
  • Require all beneficiaries except active duty members to get maintenance medication refills through the mail-order system or in military pharmacies

Check out MOAA’s one-chart summaries showing selected fee proposals for TRICARE Standard retired families, TRICARE Prime retired families, TRICARE for Life families, and pharmacy copays. (Note: enrollment fees for Prime and TFL would be phased in at increasing percentages of retired pay, subject to a flat cap (shown in red) – one cap for general/flag officers, and a lower one for other ranks. MOAA is adamantly opposed to means-testing service-earned benefits, and believes the proposed fees are far too high for all grades.)

The proposed 1% military pay raise is little more than half the 1.8% raise experienced by the average American (the standard for annual military raises under current law).

The chained-CPI COLA would depress annual retired pay, Social Security, and other COLAs by about 0.3 percent per year – which can compound to impose significant cuts over time.

MOAA will “Storm the Hill” to visit the offices of nearly every U.S. senator and representative next week, and all of these issues will be addressed in the package MOAA Stormers will leave with their legislators.


Obama’s Budget Targets COLAs, Federal Retirement Benefits Stars & Stripes 040613

President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal will include a less generous formula for calculating federal retirees’ cost of living adjustments, and ask federal employees to make higher contributions to their retirement pensions, a senior Obama administration official has informed members of Congress. The official said Obama would agree to a chained Consumer Price Index** -- which changes the inflation formula to account for modifications in purchasing habits as prices change … the chained CPI is viewed as a more accurate measure of how people substitute one item for another in the face of a price increasewould lower COLAs over time for federal retirees and Social Security beneficiaries. “This isn’t about political horsetrading,” the official said. “It’s about reducing the deficit in a balanced way that economists say is best for the economy and job creation.” Advocates for federal retirees warned against accepting arguments in favor of the chained CPI. “Don’t be fooled by economists and politicians who claim that switching to the chained CPI formula for Social Security benefits, federal retirement annuities and disability insurance is ‘painless,’ ” National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Joseph A. Beaudoin said in a statement. “While the short-term reduction in benefits may be modest, the long-term reduction will be substantial.”

Obama proposed instituting the chained CPI during fiscal cliff negotiations last year. White House officials told members of the media the president’s budget will also target $35 billion in savings by increasing the amount federal employees must pay toward their retirement benefits, The Washington Post reported. The savings were also previously included in negotiations with House Republicans. New federal employees already are seeing a hike in their pension contributions: In 2012 lawmakers raised the contribution rate from 0.8 percent to 3.1 percent for new hires. The American Federation of Government Employees urged lawmakers to oppose the 2014 budget provisions, saying Obama has been acting more like an “enemy than a friend.” “The administration signed the Budget Control Act that brought us the sequester,” AFGE President J. David Cox said in a statement. “It pushes a cruel cut to Social Security, veterans, and federal employee retirement benefits through the chained CPI. And now, a final act of betrayal. The White House proposes a fiscal 2014 budget with $35 billion MORE in retirement system cuts, accelerating the race to the bottom for federal workers and their families.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, voiced complaints with Obama’s overall budget proposal. “If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s no way to lead and move the country forward."

**NOTE** The CPI concept is a well established economic theorem … when money is tight, people quit buying more expensive items and start buying less expensive items. In theory, if beef begins to sell for $10/lb., people will buy pork that sells for $6/lb. Next year, if beef sells for $12/lb., pork $8/lb, and chicken $6/lb … people will shift to chicken. And the next year the process will repeat with the CPI being based on the least cost item. Thus subsequent COLAs will be based on a constantly decreasing value base while inflation will increase. Simply put, retirees will be forced to buy less expensive (and decreasing nutritional value) food trying to stay within a constantly shrinking budget. Lifetime effect is a decrease in pay due to yearly compounding of losses based on CPI calculations (the same concept as compound interest on your credit cards, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit. CPI will be used to calculate all items … not just food.


Senate on TRICARE, SBP, and Concurrent Receipt MOAA National March 29, 2013

For the first time in four years, the Senate passed a budget resolution (S. Con. Res 8) outlining spending limits and priorities for the next fiscal year. Among other things, it envisions repealing the Medicare payment formula that now requires a 27-percent cut in Medicare and TRICARE payments as of Jan. 1, 2014.

On issues directly affecting the military and veterans community, the resolution included provisions concerning:

  • expanding eligibility for concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability compensation;
  • ending the deduction of VA survivor benefits from Survivor Benefit Plan annuities;
  • protecting VA benefits from COLA cuts, including the “chained CPI” suggested by many COLA critics;
  • extending VA health care coverage to qualifying dependent children until age 26; and
  • improving veterans’ access to health care in rural areas.

MOAA applauds the efforts of multiple senators who worked to include the latter provisions in the budget resolution. But it’s important to understand it will be an uphill battle to get these changes into law.

First, most were included in “contingent reserve fund” provisions. That means the sponsoring senator would like to see it happen, but it would have to be done on a budget-neutral basis — meaning something else must be cut to pay for it. That’s why Congress hasn’t done these things in the past — unwillingness to make the offsetting cuts. Second, the House-passed budget resolution reflects dramatically different budget priorities than the Senate’s.

Given those dramatic differences, the likelihood of House and Senate leaders reaching a compromise seems slim. What’s different this year is a recent law change to suspend congressional salaries if each chamber failed to pass a budget resolution. They’ve each now done that now, so their pay is safe. There was no penalty if they failed to agree.


 

VA Bill Introduced in Congress Stars & StripesWeek of March 11, 2013

Rep. Miller (R-FL), Chairman House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Ranking Member Mike Michaud (MA) recently introduced the Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013. The bill would require Congress to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs' discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule, ensuring that all VA services will have timely, predictable funding in an era where continuing resolutions and threats of government shutdowns are all too frequent. Currently, Congress funds the medical care portion at the beginning of each fiscal year. Providing the remainder of the discretionary budget -- roughly $8 billion -- up front would make it easier for VA to plan for key investments and give Congress a greater level of oversight on multi-year funding proposals. The text of the House bill is available online.


House Approves Modest Sequester Help MOAA National 030813

The House passed legislation this week that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, avert an end-of-March Government shutdown, and give the Pentagon at least some flexibility in implementing the sequester's budget cuts

How Will Sequestration Affect You? MOAA National 030813

Sequestration began on March 1. Are you seeing any effects yet for you and your family, or do you expect to? Take MOAA's short survey.


Congress Isn’t Stopping Huge Readiness Cuts — Will You? MOAA National February 15, 2013

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and the Joint Chiefs told the House and Senate Armed Services committees this week that military readiness will take a huge hit if sequestration-driven budget cuts take effect. With just two weeks left before massive sequestration-driven budget cuts kick in on March 1, Carter said, “The wolves are at the door.”

His warning comes on the heels of testimony last week by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that DoD faces the “greatest national security readiness crisis in more than a decade.”

The service chiefs said the cuts will force canceling deployments, reducing flying and steaming hours, curtailing maintenance, training, and travel, and furloughing civilian personnel for 22 days without pay. “We need to find $46 billion for sequestration between now and the end of the year,” Carter stated. “Furloughs only get $5 billion … we still have $41 [billion] to go.”

The president has exempted military pay from sequestration for 2013, but Carter said the troops will be hit in other ways, including longer hours to do the work of furloughed civilians, cutting back on TRICARE access late in the year, and reducing family support programs. Next year, 100,000 extra troops will have to be cut. “I began my career in a hollow Army,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno. “I do not want to end my career in a hollow Army.”

Many committee lawmakers expressed hope the Joint Chiefs’ testimony would help force a bipartisan compromise deal. But with sequestration less than two weeks away and not a glimmer of any deal in sight, even more think the cuts will happen. It’s beyond disappointing to MOAA that Congress refuses to change the sequestration law, which most people in both chambers and both parties acknowledge will impose dumb, massive cuts in ways that will harm military readiness.

Sequestration — blind, across-the-board meat-ax cuts to every budget category — once again has turned out to be something elected officials hide behind as an excuse for refusing to do their job.

Instead of making the best of a bad budget situation, they’ve chosen to make the worst of it and put their partisan objectives ahead of our national interests.

Don’t let your legislators off the hook. Please use MOAA’s suggested message to push them to pass a more rational alternative to these stupid, mindless cuts.


New Bills of Interest MOAA National February 8, 2013

The House and Senate introduced several important new bills this week. Click on the bills below to send your legislator a MOAA-suggested message:

H.R. 543 – Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act. Rep. Chris Gibson’s (R-NY) bill would authorize presumptive service connection for “Blue Water” Navy Vietnam veterans on disability claims for health conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

S. 210 – Stolen Valor Act. Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-Nev.) bill would make it a crime for a person to profit by misrepresenting his or her military service or eligibility for military awards or decorations.

S. 234 – The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2013. Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) bill would authorize the full concurrent receipt of retired pay and veterans' disability compensation for military retirees regardless of disability rating, including those with Chapter 61 medical retirements.

S. 240 - Reserve Retirement Deployment Credit Correction Act. Senators Jon Tester’s (D-MT) and Saxby Chambliss’ (R-AL) bill would ease the current requirement that any 90-day period of active service creditable toward early reserve retirement eligibility must be completed within the same fiscal year.

More bills will be available on
MOAA’s Key Bills page soon. Until Early June, those members living in the 1st Congressional District will not have a voice in bills/debates in the House of Representatives, therefore, it is very important you let Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott know your position on current issues so they can be prepared to represent you in the Senate.


Military to Send Sequestration Plans to Obama This Week DefenseNews Feb. 2, 2013 - 12:22PM

By the end of this week, the Pentagon must submit its plans to the White House for how it will deal with automatic defense spending cuts set to kick in March 1, according to defense sources. That Feb. 8 deadline marks the beginning of a series of high-level meetings with lawmakers scheduled throughout what will be a hectic February as the calendar inches toward the automatic cuts, known as sequestration. Unless Congress takes action, which seemed unlikely last week, sequestration calls for a series of defense spending cuts totaling $500 billion over 10 years.

On Feb. 15, the Pentagon will send Congress a request for authorization to furlough civilian workers, defense sources said. DoD is the only federal department that has to make this type of request, necessary to allow 45 days before furloughs begin. While those behind-the-scenes moves take place, a number of 11th-hour hearings on the budget crisis are scheduled or are in the planning process.

Congressional aides and Pentagon officials are working to arrange a hearing with the service chiefs before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12, defense sources said. The same Senate panel is planning a hearing Feb. 26 with former service chiefs. The service chiefs also are scheduled to appear before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee Feb. 26., sources said. Other hearings are possible, but they will likely be too late to make a difference before sequestration hits March 1, the defense sources said.


Your Help Is Needed Again

The battle for your benefits is far from over, as ever-increasing budget pressures generate more proposals for broad-based cutbacks. Please sign, stamp, and mail the tear-out letters at pages 34-35 and 42-43 in the February issue of Military Officer to urge Armed Services Committee leaders to protect against proposals that break faith with members of the military community. You also can print a copy of the letters from MOAA’s website.


Senate Votes Against Protecting Troops MOAA National February 1, 2013

You probably read in your morning newspaper or saw on last evening’s newscast that the Senate followed the House in passing legislation to suspend the debt ceiling for three more months. Like the House bill, the Senate bill would suspend Congress’ pay if the House and Senate don’t pass budget resolutions by April 15. Big deal. There’s every expectation that the Republican House and the Democratic Senate will pass resolutions by that date. But the new law doesn’t require them to be the same or for them to reach a compromise for legislators to get paid.

Interestingly, the Senate voted 53-45 to reject Sen. Patrick Toomey’s (R-Pa.) amendment that would have put first priority on paying interest on the national debt, Social Security payments, and military troops’ pay in the event the government hits the federal debt ceiling.

MOAA understands the logic everybody loses if the government can’t pay its bills or if the government shuts down. But we’re weary of Congress’s repeated brinksmanship tactics that seem geared toward forcing action by threatening the livelihood of servicemembers and their families who already have been forced to sacrifice beyond any reasonable limits.

Federal civilians will get furloughed if politicians can’t figure out how to keep the country running.

But in the troops’ case, Congress won’t just refuse to pay them. They’ll keep sending them in harm’s way for nothing.


Sequestration could hurt veterans Washington Post 013113

The Senate Armed Services Committee warned Wednesday that sequestration could adversely affect programs for veterans, despite an exemption in the law for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “The VA itself is protected from sequestration, but other programs that help veterans could be affected,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters.

Sanders mentioned as examples a Department of Labor program to provide job training to veterans and Housing and Urban Development vouchers that are used to house homeless veterans. “Congress was right to protect the VA, but veterans will still be impacted,” Sanders said.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki raised similar concerns at a joint appearance last month, with Panetta warning that sequestration could have “a serious impact” on programs supporting troops leaving military service. Sanders also repeated an earlier warning that efforts to solve the budget deficit crisis by changing the way annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated would cut disability benefits for disabled veterans. ”It would hit disabled vets,” he said. Sanders is replacing Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), who is now chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.


Congress considering bills that affect veterans' benefits, employment

Leo Shane III Stars and Stripes January 25, 2013

WASHINGTON – Despite Congress’ early session focus on budget battles, lawmakers have introduced an ambitious slate of veterans-themed bills that could have far-reaching effects on post-military benefits and employment. The most likely legislation to become law is the new Stolen Valor Act, introduced by Iraq war veteran Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada. The proposal would mandate a fine and up to a year in prison for anyone who claims military awards “with intent to obtain money, property or other tangible benefit.” Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down the original Stolen Valor Act, saying the law was written too broadly and infringed on First Amendment rights. But the justices also said a more narrowly written bill would withstand constitutional scrutiny, and Heck said he believes the update language fits that requirement. The legislation passed the House by a 410-3 vote last September and drew praise from the Senate, but the fiscal cliff confusion pushed aside efforts to finalize the measure. Heck said he expects the measure to be passed into law later this year.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, made new veterans unemployment legislation one of the first 10 bills to be introduced in that chamber, promising more emphasis and attention on the topic. The Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act would reauthorize a host of veterans training and employment services created by the 2011 Hire Heroes Act, one of only a few bills to draw broad bipartisan support over the last two years. It would also establish new online resources for veterans seeking jobs, give contracting preference to firms with veteran employees, and allow federal officials to suspend contracts with companies who violate employment laws protecting guardsmen and reservists. The measure also includes new education and training incentives, but a proposal from the House Veterans Affairs Committee could have a much greater impact on how veterans use their GI Bill benefits.

This week, committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and ranking member Mike Michaud, D-Maine, introduced legislation to require all schools eligible for GI Bill education benefits to give veterans in-state tuition rates, regardless where they live. “The men and women who served this nation did not just defend the citizens of their home states, but the citizens of all 50 states,” Miller said in a statement. “As such, the educational benefits they receive from the taxpayers should reflect that.” The idea has been pushed by veterans groups in the past and was part of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. But it could meet resistance from education groups, who would have to make up the revenue difference in the lower tuition rates.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., former chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, reintroduced legislation this week to allow veterans with reproductive injuries to receive fertility treatment services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure, which drew support from several lawmakers in both chambers last year, would also offer child care programs at veterans hospitals and VA centers, and mandate more outreach programs for female veterans.

Less likely to pass is a proposal from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., which would guarantee military paychecks to continue in the event of a government shutdown. White House officials earlier this month said that if the debt ceiling fight wasn’t resolved, many government benefits and payrolls – including active-duty paychecks and some veterans benefits – could be delayed because of a forced halt to all federal operations. Hunter called those claims off-base and said they were distracting to troops serving overseas. He said legislators should ensure that political infighting doesn’t affect those paychecks. But similar efforts to insulate military and veterans payouts from the Capitol Hill budget battles have failed in recent years. Leaders in the House and Senate have not had any serious conversations about making that change before the next set of budget fights next month.


Veterans Health Care “Tsunami” Coming

DoD’s Recovering Warrior Task Force conducted its first meeting of the year Jan. 14-15, providing an update on Pentagon, military service, and VA wounded, ill, and injured programs. After 12 years of war and the implementation of hundreds of legislative provisions, policies, programs, and services, DoD and the VA still are plagued with basic command and control, coordination, and communication issues that cause inconsistencies and distrust across the agencies, ultimately affecting care delivery for beneficiaries.

“There is a great deal of inconsistency across the DoD and VA … in part due to the systems being overwhelmed,” said Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, the Navy’s surgeon general and task force cochair. “I submit to you, we will have another system surge when troops come home from Afghanistan, a ‘tsunami’ … that will again overwhelm the systems — and things will get worse before they get better.”

Discussions focused on the inconsistencies and lack of trust in the systems, including the disability evaluation process — a problem that has created stovepipes of expertise. Recovering warriors and their families are starving for practical help — even while being overwhelmed by a massive volume of information they’re given.

“I don’t think any of us [task force members] can articulate what DoD and VA benefits mean to troops and their families — these benefit programs are complicated,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Stone, Army deputy surgeon general and deputy commanding general for support. “Until we simplify the system into a single adjudication, we will continue to do handoffs.”

Clearly more work is needed to address the gaps and build trust and confidence in systems among our most vulnerable population to meet their needs.


NEW BILLS OF INTEREST

Members of the House of Representatives reintroduced several bills of interest this week. Click on the bills below to send your legislator a MOAA-suggested message (we will not be represented in the House of Representatives until the end of March at the earliest):

H.R. 333 — Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act. Rep. Sanford Bishop’s (D-Ga.) bill would authorize the full concurrent receipt of retired pay and veterans' disability compensation for military retirees regardless of disability rating, including those with Chapter 61 medical retirements.
H.R. 241 — Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act. Rep. Dennis Ross’s (R-Fla.) bill would ensure veterans seeking treatment at a VA facility get appointments within 30 days.
H.R. 357 — GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act. Rep. Jeff Miller’s (R-Fla.) bill would let all student veterans enroll in any public college and pay in-state tuition, even if they had not established residency in the state.
S. 6 — Putting our Veterans Back to Work Act. Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) bill would provide grants for hiring veterans as first responders, a single unified employment portal, job training benefits for older veterans, and upgraded transition services for servicemembers leaving active duty.

Many more bills will be added over the next few weeks as the 113th Congress settles in. Bookmark MOAA’s Key Bills page to help you stay involved in our advocacy efforts.


New Bills: Concurrent Receipt and More MOAA National 011813

Members of the House of Representatives reintroduced several bills of interest this week. Although we in the 1st Congressional District will not be represented until at least the end of March, click on the bills below to see a MOAA-suggested message that you can use once we elect Tim Scotts replacement:

H.R. 303 – Retired Pay Restoration Act: Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ (R-Fla.) bill would authorize the full concurrent receipt of retired pay and veterans' disability compensation for retirees regardless of disability rating.

H.R. 288 – CHAMPVA Children’s Protection Act: Rep. Michael Michaud’s (D-Maine) bill would increase the maximum age to 26 for children eligible for medical care under the CHAMPVA program.

H.R. 258 – Stolen Valor Act: Rep. Joe Heck’s (R-Nev.) bill would make it a crime for a person to profit by misrepresenting his or her military service or eligibility for military awards or decorations.

Many more bills will be added over the next few weeks as the 113th Congress settles in. Be sure to bookmark MOAA’s key bills page to help you stay involved in our advocacy efforts.


Military Pay, Survivor Benefit Plan Bills Introduced MOAA National 011113

With the election of each new Congress, all of the bills introduced in the previous Congress expire. So any legislation to be considered by the new 113th Congress will have to be reintroduced, and supporting legislators will have to sign up as cosponsors all over again.

Members of the House of Representatives wasted no time introducing a few important pieces of legislation to protect the interests of servicemembers and military survivors. Click on the bills below to send your legislator a MOAA-suggested message:

H.R. 32 — Repeal the SBP/DIC Offset. Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) bill would repeal current law that requires a dollar-for-dollar offset of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities from VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for the survivors of servicemembers who die of service-connected causes.

H.R. 55 — Don’t Let a Funding Gap Stop Military Pay. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick’s (R-Pa.) bill would protect against any interruption of pay for servicemembers and federal law enforcement officials in the event of a government shutdown.

We expect many more bills to be added over the next few weeks as the 113th Congress settles in. Be sure to bookmark
MOAA’s Key Bills page to help you stay involved in our advocacy efforts.


Four Crises on the Horizon MOAA National January 11, 2013

The New Year’s Eve “fiscal cliff” scare might have passed, but any relief will be brief.

Over the next three months, the military community and the nation face four new and likely even more threatening fiscal confrontation deadlines:

1. Sometime in February: the president will send Congress his FY 2014 budget submission — we don’t know what to expect, but it could include proposals for significant new troop, pay, and benefit cutbacks.

2. Late February: the country is expected to hit the statutory ceiling on the size of the national debt. Many in Congress adamantly oppose an increase, but absent a deal to raise it, America would default on its debts; the last time Congress had a debt ceiling fight, America’s credit rating was downgraded, which tightened credit limits for individuals and companies. Any deal almost certainly will require more spending (including defense) cuts.

3. March 1: Sequestration (a $1 trillion, 10-year, across-the-board budget-cut) will go into effect unless Congress adopts an alternative for spending cuts/revenue increases. DoD would be required to absorb $41 billion in cuts before the end of October (a devastating cut in so short a time) and $450 billion more over the next 9 years.

4. March 27: The continuing resolution under which the federal government now is operating expires. Without an extension, the government will shut down. Here again, many legislators are talking about accepting a shutdown unless major spending cuts occur.

Any one of these problems would be a challenge for our rancorous Congress to address, but combine all four events converging in such a small amount of time, and it greatly increases the likelihood Congress and the administration will fail to reach agreements to successfully navigate all of these major pitfalls.

The consequences could be dire. Default on our debt, a government shutdown, or massive and immediate defense spending cuts could have a prolonged and negative effect — not just for currently serving and retired servicemembers and federal civilians — but also for America as a whole.

We have a seriously stormy few months coming before we learn whether increasingly fierce partisan acrimony can be overcome in the national interest or whether the divide is so severe our elected officials actually find “shooting the hostage”preferable to negotiating compromise solutions.


What the New Law Changes Mean to You MOAA National 010413

Congress worked long hours before Christmas on the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and returned after a quick holiday break leading to a dramatic New Year’s Day showdown on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.

The
defense bill the president signed into law this week includes many changes to military pay and benefits. The most notable ones:

  • 1.7-percent military pay raise, effective Jan. 1, 2013;
  • TRICARE retail pharmacy copayments: Brand-name and non-formulary medications will rise from $12 and $25, respectively, to $17 and $44 effective Feb. 1. Generic drug copayments will stay at $5;
  • TRICARE mail-order copayments: Brand-name and non-formulary medications will rise from $9 and $25, respectively, to $13 and $43. Generic drugs will continued to be provided by mail at no cost;
  • Maintenance medication refills: Sometime later in the spring, probably no sooner than April 1, TRICARE For Life beneficiaries will be required to begin a one-year trial of using either the mail-order system or military pharmacies for refills of maintenance medications. Provisions in the law ensure no one will be turned away from a retail pharmacy without enough medication to last until the alternate refill is available. Many generic medications likely will be exempt from the mail/military pharmacy refill requirement; and
  • Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC): Some combat-disabled military retirees will see a correction (increase) in their CRSC payments. DFAS will do the new calculations and make corrected payments retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013. There’s no provision to provide corrected payments for prior years.

The fiscal cliff legislation the president also signed into law earlier this week means:

  • Medicare/TRICARE payments to your doctors didn’t suffer a 27-percent cut Jan. 1;
  • $50 billion in threatened additional defense cuts have been fended off for 60 days; and
  • working Americans will see an extra 2-percent payroll tax bite from their 2013 paychecks (the special 2-percent windfall relief during the past several years has expired).

Unfortunately, all the congressional can-kicking means a new “triple-witching crisis” looms just around the corner. During the next 60 to 90 days, the new Congress must:

  • start considering a whole new set of proposals when the administration delivers its proposed FY 2014 budget in February;
  • find a way to avoid an additional $50 billion cut to this year’s defense budget that could devastate procurement, maintenance, health care, and support funding;
  • appropriate funds to keep the government running for the second half of the current fiscal year (the six-month continuing resolution it’s now operating on will expire); and
  • provide relief from the statutory ceiling on the national debt that we’re projected to hit in two months or so.

Continuing partisan rancor on the Hill virtually guarantees another — and very likely much worse — “fiscal cliff” confrontation that’s likely to make last year’s look like a pillow fight.

Issues on the table before spring almost certainly will include more defense cuts and proposals to curtail entitlement programs, including Medicare, Social Security, military and federal civilian retirement, VA benefits, COLAs, and more.

Your grassroots input to your legislators during this fight will be more important than ever to protect the military community from being hit with disproportional penalties.


Selected MOAA Legislative Goals for 2013 MOAA National 010413

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Active/Reserve Force/Family Issues

  • Sustain active duty, Guard and Reserve force sizes to meet mission requirements
  • Sustain military pay comparability with private sector
  • Protect currently serving and retiree benefits against significant degradation based on sequestration’s arbitrary cuts
  • Credit all post-9/11 active duty service toward Guard/Reserve early retirement
  • Restore tax deduction for reservists’ out-of-pocket expenses for military travel of 50 miles or more
  • Create new incentives for employers to hire and retain drilling Guard/Reserve members
  • Provide incentives for employers/government/contractors to hire military spouses
  • Protect funding for commissary/exchange, dependent schools and family support programs
  • Improve access to affordable child care
  • Require better education on serious financial disadvantages of the REDUX retirement option
  • Improve professional licensure transferability for servicemembers and military spouses

Health Care Issues

  • Avert annual Medicare/TRICARE payment cut and fix statutory formula to improve access to care
  • Protect against disproportional increases in TRICARE fees
  • Oppose enrollment fee for TRICARE For Life or curtailment of TFL coverage
  • Allow three years of active-duty-level TRICARE coverage for disability retirees/families
  • Improve seamless transition and protect Defense and VA health/benefits/support systems budgets
  • Authorize option to subsidize retention of operational reservists' civilian family health insurance
  • Increase orthodontia payment cap under active duty dental plan
  • Authorize TRICARE coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) for active and retired members of the uniformed services

Retirement/Survivor Issues

  • Oppose military benefit changes that are inconsistent with service career sacrifices
  • Preserve full-inflation cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs)
  • End deduction of VA disability compensation from military retired pay
  • End deduction of VA survivor benefits (DIC) from military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities
  • Implement a more equitable military disability retirement system
  • Restore VA DIC compensation for qualifying survivors who remarry after age 55
  • Reform same SBP calculation for a reservist who dies performing IDT as for active duty deaths
  • Authorize survivors to retain a deceased retiree’s full final-month retired pay
  • Authorize SBP annuities to be paid to Special Needs Trusts for permanently disabled children
  • Reform the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)
  • Authorize Space-A travel for ‘gray area’ Guard-Reserve retirees and qualifying survivors

Veterans and Other Issues

  • Improve quality, efficiency, transparency, and timeliness of VA claims-processing system
  • Establish Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for surviving spouses of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts
  • Improve VA health services and access for women veterans
  • Authorize pre-tax payment of health, dental and long-term care premiums
  • Reduce Social Security penalties for certain civil service and state retirees/survivors
  • Prevent disproportional Social Security/Medicare penalties for any population segment

Your Voice Sets Advocacy Record MOAA National 101413

Many members express frustration with the responses (or lack thereof) they receive from their legislators’ offices. But experience shows that grassroots communication volume does, in fact, have a major effect on legislative outcomes, and 2012 was no different.

MOAA is thankful for all of our members and others who took the time to contact their legislators this year on issues important to the military community. Your efforts set a record — generating more than 932,000 emails to Congress through MOAA’s website and well over 1.2 million total messages when you include postcards, tear-out letters, and phone calls.

In the end, you played a key role in protecting the military community against disproportionate benefit cuts. Here’s a quick snapshot of the MOAA message topics with the highest input to Congress in 2012.

Don't Triple Military Rx Copays — 261,265

Oppose Disproportional TRICARE Fees — 240,311

Don't Punish Military People in a "Grand Bargain" — 238,857

Repeal the SBP/DIC Offset — 60,138

Enhance Concurrent Receipt — 59,036

Prevent Medicare/TRICARE cut — 58,445


If you didn’t participate in 2012, we hope you’ll make it one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2013. Our user-friendly Congressional messaging system will make it one of your easiest resolutions to accomplish.


Military Health Care (TRICARE) Huffington Post 122312

In President Obama’s last offer to House Speaker Boehner, the president lobbied for $16 billion in cuts from the military’s health care program TRICARE. The president also proposed hiking fees for military personnel and veterans who receive benefits under the program in an effort to help cut the defense budget. His proposal drew significant fire from Republican lawmakers and veterans groups. Additionally, the president has threatened to use his Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech to shame and blame Republicans if a bill is not passed and the U.S. goes over the fiscal cliff.


Fiscal Cliff Looms over Holidays MOAA National 122112

House and Senate leaders say they'll be back in session on December 27 to continue work to avoid the so called "fiscal cliff." Negotiations are expected to go right up to (and maybe past) the January 1 deadline.
Changing the federal COLA formula (aka Chained-CPI) is one issue being discussed for inclusion in the deficit reduction deal. Both Speaker Boehner and President Obama have proposed changing the basis of COLA from the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) to the "chain weighted" CPI. This would have the effect of lowering annual COLAs for Social Security, military and federal retirement, and VA disability compensation, by roughly one-quarter of one percent per year.
That may not seem like much, but it can have a major impact on purchasing power over a retiree's lifetime, especially for military and disabled people who begin receiving federal retired or disability pay at relatively younger ages.
This week MOAA signed on to several letters to the Hill with organizations representing seniors, veterans, and military service members outlining our objection to the chained CPI.

If you haven't already done so, please send a MOAA-suggested message to your legislators urging against imposing disproportional penalties on the military community that already has sacrificed more for America than any other group of citizens.


More Defense Bill Details MOAA National 122112

We reported that House and Senate conferees included key provisions in the FY2013 defense authorization bill that will; increase military pay, protect against massive TRICARE pharmacy copays increases, thwart a BRAC-style military retirement commission, and address a long-standing concurrent receipt glitch.

Here are some additional highlights from the final defense bill (which was approved by the House of Representatives Thursday and should pass the Senate today):

  • Force reduction limits: The legislation caps force cuts at 15,000 a year for Army and 5,000 a year for the Marine Corps to ensure that the drawdown doesn't negatively impact dwell time between deployments for remaining troops.
  • Space-available travel: The new law authorizes (but does not require) the Secretary of Defense to expand eligibility to "gray area" Guard/Reserve retirees under age 60 and to other categories of individuals the Secretary deems appropriate. The Secretary has authority to establish relative travel priorities among eligible groups.
  • Autism treatment: The new law establishes a one-year pilot program making active duty and retired family members diagnosed with autism eligible for applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy under TRICARE. MOAA is pleased the provision includes all uniformed services (the original House and Senate bills excluded some or all Coast Guard, NOAA, and USPHS beneficiaries). But we're disappointed it excludes family members with other diagnoses for which ABA therapy is helpful. The one-year limit means another battle to continue eligibility beyond FY2013.
  • Survivor Benefit Plan: Repeals requirement for payment of SBP premiums when a retired service member employed as a federal civilian waives military retired pay to provide a survivor annuity under the Federal Retirement System. No military SBP annuity will be paid in that case.
  • Mental Health Counselors: Directs the VA and DoD to recruit more mental health professionals to provide service to veterans and servicemembers.

We have developed a side by side matrix to compare how selected proposals in the House and Senate versions of the defense bill were resolved in the final law.


Big TRICARE, Other Wins in Defense Bill MOAA National 121912
FY2013 Defense Authorization Act still must be passed by the full House & Senate and signed by the President, the deal is done, and that formality should be completed this week. Here's the big news affecting currently serving and retired troops and families:

Military pay raise: All currently serving troops will see a 1.7% raise.

TRICARE pharmacy copays: The bill includes the MOAA-supported alternative to the dramatic DoD proposed copay hikes:

  • Brand-name retail meds: Instead of raising the current $12 copay to $26 and then to $34 over the next four years, the defense bill caps it at $17 for 2013, and limits future annual increases to the percentage increase in military retired pay.
  • Non-formulary retail meds: DoD proposed to eliminate these medications (currently available for $25 copay) through retail pharmacy. The new law still keeps them available through retail for $44 copay. Expensive, but better than not having them available at all.
  • Generic retail meds: DoD proposed raising the current $5 copay by $1 a year, starting in 2014. The new law keeps it at $5 for 2013, and applies the COLA cap for future annual adjustments. Barring large increases in future retired pay COLAs, it will likely be several years before we see an increase to $6.
  • Mail-order generic copays: Instead of the DoD proposal to reinstate a $9 copay for generics in 2017, the new law retains the current zero copay.
  • Mail-order brand-name copays: Instead of the DoD plan to raise the current $9 copay to $26 for 2013 and to $34 over the next four years, the new law caps the 2013 copay at $13, and applies the COLA cap for future years.
  • Mail-order non-formulary copays: Instead of the DoD plan to raise the current $25 copay to $51 for 2013 and to $66 over the next four years, the new law caps the 2013 copay at $44 and applies the COLA cap for future years.

Mail-order/military pharmacy refills: To make up the lost revenue from capping copays at lower rates, the new law requires TRICARE-for-Life eligible beneficiaries to try using either military pharmacies or the mail-order system for refills of maintenance medications for at least one year. After a year, they can opt out and go back to using the retail system for all refills if they choose. This new requirement likely will take effect sometime in March 2013. The law establishes requirements to ensure no one is turned away at retail pharmacies without enough medication to last until a mail-order account is established for them. It also gives DoD authority to waive the requirement for selected medications (e.g., many generics likely will be exempted, because they cost no more in retail pharmacies) or beneficiaries (e.g., nursing home patients).

Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission: As proposed by the Administration and approved by the Senate, the members of this commission would all be appointed by the Administration, and its recommendations would have to be considered by Congress under expedited, BRAC-type rules that would have barred any amendments and required a "yes or no" Congressional vote, with only limited time for review and debate. The final law addresses MOAA's strong objections to that proposal. To protect against packing the panel with Administration "yes-people", it allows the president to appoint one commissioner, with two each to be appointed by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, in consultation with Armed Services Committee leaders. Most important, the final law also drops any requirement for a congressional vote, let alone under BRAC-style rules.

Concurrent Receipt: The new law fixes a long-standing glitch in the current statutory formula that now underpays (and in some cases eliminates any payment) of Combat-Related Special Compensation for combat-disabled military retirees. The affected people will see their proper CRSC payments effective January 1, 2013. Because the formula is so complicated and varies by service length and VA disability rating, it's impossible to tell in advance which specific people are getting paid correctly vs. incorrectly under current law. Most of the people affected are likely to be combat-disabled members forced into medical retirement with less than 20 years of service.


Bigger RX fees, free vaccines and the CRSC fix Stars & Stripes December 13, 2012

Defense Secretary Panetta urged House-Senate conferees negotiating the final details of the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill to support the Obama administration’s “full proposal” for hiking drug co-pays on military family members and retirees. The higher fees, which would nearly triple out-of-pocket costs for brand-name prescriptions at TRICARE retail outlets, are to encourage greater use of less costly options – the TRICARE mail order program and base pharmacies.

The Senate-passed defense bill, by staying silent on the pharmacy issue, would allow TRICARE officials to carrying out their plan to raise beneficiary co-pays at retail outlets over several years and then to adjust them annually to keep pace with medical inflation. Part of that plan is to raise the current $12 co-pay on brand name drugs filled at TRICARE network drug stores to $26 in 2013 and to $34 by 2016. House bill language, if adopted, would soften that blow. It would allow the brand name co-pay at retail to climb only to $17 next year and then adjust it thereafter by the percentage increase in retired pay annually. But the House plan also would require beneficiaries 65 and older to have all maintenance drugs for chronic conditions filled by mail order only.

Referring to “spiraling health care costs,” Panetta said the department “is pleased” to see that either bill will “permit some increases in pharmaceutical co-pays” to save money “by providing incentives to use mail order and generic drugs.” Most of the savings, he said, would not come from beneficiaries but from greater use of more efficient pharmacy choices.

FREE VACCINES -- While conferees press to reach compromise on drug co-pays, Rear Adm. Thomas McGinnis, chief of TRICARE pharmacy operations, is urging beneficiaries, especially the elderly, to take advantage of a line of cost-free drugs at TRICARE retail outlets: vaccines. It used to be a hassle to get a flu shot or vaccine for shingles or other preventable ailments. Patients needed a doctor’s appointment and often faced a co-payment. The process today is easy and cost-free through TRICARE retail outlets but many beneficiaries don’t know this, McGinnis said. Retail druggists are primed to offer vaccines, in part, because they get paid for supplying the medicine and for administering the shot. The higher cost to TRICARE, McGinnis said, is more than offset by savings from preventing common illnesses. Vaccines mean fewer doctor visits and fewer medicines dispensed for ailments now avoided.

CRSC “GLITCH” – A key issue conferees on the defense bill are considering is the fate of a Senate-passed fix to a “glitch” in Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) for some military retirees forced from service short of 20 years due to combat-related conditions. Congress in 2008 extended CRSC eligibility to so-called Chapter 61 retirees with combat-related disabilities. But the calculation formula approved for the CRSC extension leads, in some circumstances, to little or no additional CRSC due when a retiree’s disability rating rises. Whether an individual is impacted, and by how much, by this glitch depends on several factors including original service disability rating, length of service, VA rating and CRSC rating tied to a member's combat-related condition.


Rules Eased for Veterans’ Brain Injury Benefits December 7, 2012

The Department of Veterans Affairs will propose new regulations today making it easier for thousands of veterans to receive health care and compensation for certain illnesses that have been linked to traumatic brain injury. The regulations, which will be published on 10 December in the Federal Register, lists Parkinsonism, unprovoked seizures, certain dementias, depression and hormone deficiency diseases related to the hypothalamus, pituitary or adrenal glands as eligible for the expanded benefits.

The proposal, which must undergo a 60-day public comment period, could open the door to tens of thousands of veterans filing claims with the Veterans Benefits Administration, which is already struggling to process a huge inventory of such claims. Since 2000, more than 250,000 service members — some still on active duty — have received diagnoses of traumatic brain injury, or T.B.I., according to the Defense Department. Though T.B.I. is commonly viewed as resulting from blast exposure, the vast majority of those injuries were diagnosed in non-deployed troops who were involved in vehicle crashes, training accidents or sports injuries.

Veterans of prior wars will also be eligible for the benefits, if they can demonstrate that a traumatic brain injury was connected to their military service. Under current rules, a veteran with one of the five illnesses has to provide medical evidence that the disease is the result of military service in order to receive veterans’ benefits.

The new rule would potentially speed up and simplify their cases, provided a veteran could first demonstrate a service-connected traumatic brain injury. Once that is established, the department will accept without further evidence that any of those five diseases was caused by the T.B.I., making the veteran eligible for additional compensation and health care for that particular disease.

The regulations include some significant restrictions on eligibility, however. Veterans with Parkinsonism — a neurological syndrome often resulting in tremors or muscle rigidity — as well as unprovoked seizures, dementias and hormone deficiency diseases will be eligible only if their traumatic brain injury was moderate or severe.


Coburn, McCain sway Senate to bigger military prescription fees

Stars & Stripes December 6, 2012

Speeches by Sens. Coburn (R-Ok) and McCain (Az) on runaway military health costs led the Senate Tuesday to shelve a defense bill amendment that would have spared family members and retirees more burdensome co-pays on drug prescriptions filled off base allowed Coburn and McCain to block the Senate from supporting the softer House-passed plan for raising prescription fees.

“This is paid for, but it is smoke and mirrors,” Coburn told colleagues on the Senate floor. “We have used a trick…that will require [more funding for] the health account…which means we will not have $1.7 billion for naval exercises, for flight training, for tank training, for range training.”

“We are going to have to find ways to bring these costs under control and still, at the same time, provide our veterans with the benefits they have earned,” McCain said, in arguing against the House plan. McCain attacked the notion that raising fees would harm readiness. “I know of no one who joined the military because of TRICARE, [though] I hear [it] from all the retirees… they joined…to serve their country. They understand our obligation to them is not to hand them a bankrupt Defense Department [where] all the costs are in things such as TRICARE and retirement benefits…so we can't provide them with what they need to fight.”

The reality is that pharmacy co-pays will rise this spring for family members and retirees. By how much will be determined by a House-Senate conference committee that will be meeting next week behind closed doors.

The Senate defense bill, passed 98 to 0, now has no language to block or alter the Obama administration’s drug co-pay plan. Under it, drugs dispensed on base would stay free, and co-pays for generics in retail outlets would remain $5. But co-pays for brand names at retail on the military formulary would jump to $26 from $12. Non-formulary drugs, which cost TRICARE more, would no longer be dispensed at retail, only through mail order. Co-pays for brand names at mail order would pop to $26 from $9, but mail order prescriptions usually are for 90 days versus 30 at retail. The administration also wants co-pays adjusted by $2 annually until they reach $34 in 2016. After that, the pharmacy fees off base would be adjusted annually to keep pace with medical inflation.

The House plan allows more modest initial increases in drug fees and would tie annual increases thereafter to the percentage rise in military retired pay. This plan would at least match health cost savings of the administration’s plan by requiring elderly beneficiaries to use mail order to refill maintenance drugs, at least for a year. The expectation is that seniors will like the convenience and stay with mail order, saving TRICARE billions of dollars yearly in retail drug costs.

Steve Strobridge, director of government relations for MOAA, said the Senate seemed primed to adopt the House-passed plan until, suddenly, it fell victim to “misplaced concerns” over its impact on health costs. Its opponents painted the amendment as maintaining the status quo, he said, when in fact it represents “significant concessions” with co-pay hikes and the mail order requirement for elderly.

“These concerns about drug costs taking money away from other defense programs are completely, 100 percent bogus,” Strobridge said. “The fact is the Pentagon has been using health care money to fund other things for the past several years. And the whole point of this amendment is that health care money should be used to fund health care.”

Defense officials earlier this year sought to reprogram $700 million from health care into other accounts. Strobridge said that would have brought total reprogramming of health dollars to $3 billion over the last three years, a period when defense officials insisted health costs are out of control.

Coburn predicted the House-backed plan would become law because the “service organizations want us to do it. But it is not the right thing to do. We have to begin, as we negotiate to increase revenues from the very wealthy in this country, declining expenses at the Defense Department. Everybody has to share [in controlling costs]. If they don't share now, they will share much more painfully in the future.”


Stolen Valor Law 2.0 Passes in Senate Stars & Stripes 4DEC 2012

A law designed to punish those who boast battlefield medals for heroics they never performed passed the Senate on Monday, marking the second bid by Congress to outlaw lying about war records. The first so-called Stolen Valor Law was declared unconstitutional in June by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that lying about military service was protected speech.

This time around lawmakers anchored the law on lying about awards and decorations for "tangible benefit or personal gain," not strictly lying for the sake of lying. The bill was filed by Sen. Webb (D-Va), a Vietnam combat veteran, shortly after the high court knocked down the original 2006 law. The legislation is now set to become part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

The House of Representatives already passed its own version of the law, so final language has to be worked out before it can be signed. Under the Senate version anyone found guilty of violating the Stolen Valor law would be fined and possibly jailed for not more than 6 months, or both. The House version would put violators in jail for up to a year.

The new law states that benefits include any provided by the local, state or federal government for military service, earn a job, run for elective office, or attain an appointment to a board or position on a non-profit.

"Military service and military awards are held in such great respect that public and private decisions are correctly influenced by claims of heroism," the bill states, arguing that making false claims about military service and heroism are "an especially noxious means of obtaining something of value."


Senate passes $631 billion defense bill Associated Press December 4, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The Senate overwhelmingly (98-0) approved a sweeping, $631 billion defense bill Tuesday that sends a clear signal to President Barack Obama to move quickly to get U.S. combat troops out of Afghanistan, tightens sanctions on Iran and limits the president's authority in handling terror suspects.

Ignoring a White House veto threat, the legislation authorizes money for weapons, aircraft and ships and provides a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel. After a decade of increasing Pentagon budgets, the vote came against the backdrop of significant reductions in projected military spending and the threat of deeper cuts from the looming "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax increases.

The bill reflects the nation's war-weariness after more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, the messy uncertainty about new threats to U.S. security and Washington belt-tightening in times of trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Spending solely on the base defense budget has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, but the latest blueprint reins in the projected growth in military dollars.

The bill would provide some $526 billion for the base defense budget, $17 billion for defense programs in the Energy Department and about $88 billion for the war in Afghanistan. House and Senate negotiators must reconcile their competing versions of the bill in the next few weeks.


Report blasts suggestion to close commissaries
Stars & Stripes Monday Dec 3, 2012

A budget-cutting plan to shut down commissaries and instead pay an annual allowance to active-duty families for the projected increase in their grocery bill has drawn a sharp rebuttal from a research group affiliated with the military resale industry. The Military Resale and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center for Research, affiliated with the American Logistics Association, says in a report released Monday that the $400 allowance wouldn’t come close to making up for the higher grocery costs, especially for families. Military retirees and their families would not receive the annual grocery allowance under CBO’s assumptions.

“Patrons who consistently use their commissary, can save nearly $4,500 per year for an average family of four, over $2,800 for a couple, and more than $1,500 for a single service member,” the report says. Getting rid of taxpayer-subsidized commissaries, with groceries available on base only at exchange stores, would save the government about $1.3 billion a year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has suggested this cost-cutting measure for years. CBO has recommended cushioning families from what could be a 7 percent increase in grocery prices by providing a grocery allowance that would reduce total government savings to about $1 billion a year. The proposed allowance would average $400 a year, but could be targeted to specific pay grades as a retention benefit or “to benefit junior enlisted members with large families,” CBO says in its March 2011 version of a report called Reducing the Deficit: Spending and Revenue Options.

CBO’s suggestion to close commissaries has been included in many deficit reduction proposals, most recently by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. In his plan for cutting Pentagon waste, Coburn said closing the 175 stateside commissaries while keeping overseas stores makes sense to him. “By getting the Department of Defense out of the grocery business here in the United States, Congress could increase military pay across the board and allow military members to shop at the stores of their choice,” Coburn’s report says.

But the resale research report notes that commissary patrons “save 32 percent at commissaries and 24 percent at exchanges, according to independent surveys and market basket analysis. This equates to $4.584 billion per year in savings.” “This is a direct compensation benefit to the Department of Defense in that it extends the household budgets of military, personnel, families and retirees. If the benefit ceased to exist, military total compensation would drop correspondingly unless pay would be increased to provide the funds needed to shop at more expensive alternative sources,” the resale research center report says.


Special Alert - Senate to Vote Tuesday 4 December on TRICARE Rx Copays


Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are sponsoring an amendment to the Senate Defense Authorization Bill that would:

1. Cap TRICARE pharmacy copays well below those proposed by the Pentagon for FY2013

2. Cap the annual percentage increase in future pharmacy copays to no more than the percentage increase in military retired pay

3. Offset the lost revenue from these lower copays by requiring TFL-eligibles to try the mail-order pharmacy for one year for refills of maintenance medications

97% of MOAA members surveyed prefer this amendment to allowing DoD to impose far larger copay hikes now and in the future. But the Reed-Rubio-McCaskill proposal is encountering resistance from some senators and will be coming up for a vote within the next 24 hours.

Please use MOAA's suggested message to urge your senators to vote FOR the Reed-Rubio-McCaskill amendment.


White House issues objections to defense bill Stars & Stripes 112912

Bottom of Form

With the Senate knee-deep in the second of an expected three days of debate on the 2013 defense authorization bill, the White House has threatened to veto the measure unless some significant changes are made. This is not a surprise; a veto threat also hangs over the House version of the bill which passed in May.

Among the White House’s objections was the Senate Armed Services Committee’s rejection of an administration proposal to dramatically increase Tricare fees and copayments.

Instead of the fee hikes proposed by the Pentagon, the committee’s plan would cap Tricare increases at no more than the cost-of-living adjustment in military retired pay, usually just a few percentage points.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget said that move would reduce potential savings by an estimated $1.8 billion in 2013 and $12.9 billion over the next five years. “DoD needs these savings to balance and maintain investments for key defense priorities,” the policy statement says.

The administration also “strongly objects” to proposed limitations in the Senate bill on closing or moving Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. “These provisions would force DOD to operate, sustain, and maintain aircraft that are in excess to national security requirements, as defined by the new defense strategy, and are not affordable in an austere budget environment,” the statement says.

Also drawing object is a provision that would require any percentage reduction in military personnel levels to be matched with cuts in the federal civilian and federal contractor workforces, a move made by the Senate committee to ensure service members are not singled out for cutbacks if budgets get tight. The administration “believes the size of the civilian workforce should be determined based on workload and funding, not on arbitrary comparisons to the military. To comply with this legislation, the [Defense] Department would need to significantly divest workload and impose workforce caps,” the White House statement says.

The biggest objections involved what the White House sees as interference with executive powers of the president over detainees. The policy statement says the administration has “serious concerns” with a provision in the Senate bill on detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that would restrict the president’s authority to transfer detainees elsewhere.


Action Alert: TRICARE, Concurrent Receipt, SBP 112012
The Senate is expected to act on the FY2013 Defense Authorization Bill (S.3254) 26 November.

With the holiday coming, we're issuing this special alert to maximize grassroots support for several important amendments affecting the military community:

  • Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI): Cap TRICARE Rx copay hikes
  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ): Acknowledge premium value of career service/sacrifice
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): Ease concurrent receipt penalties for disabled retirees
  • Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL): End SBP-DIC offset for military widows

Please send your senators MOAA's suggested message, and urge your friends and relatives to do the same!


Prime Cuts Coming MOAA National 112112

Many members have asked about reports that access to TRICARE Prime will be reduced in the TRICARE West region under a new TRICARE contract that takes effect April 1, 2013. This likely will be the case. TRICARE officials have said as much to congressional leaders and staffs, indicating it could affect 170,000 to 220,000 beneficiaries. Unfortunately, they've declined to make any public statement about this or about what beneficiaries can expect.

The situation as MOAA sees it:
Barring something unforeseen, expect to see TRICARE Prime cutbacks April 1 in the West region and Oct 1 in the other regions. These are the result of a decision made two years. MOAA raised concerns at the time about restricting beneficiary choices, especially in areas where there are large concentrations of retirees. But we lost, and Congress tacitly endorsed the new contract limitation on Prime locations.

This isn't the first time some Prime locations have been dropped, so there are precedents for what are seen as successful conversions. The issue is that Prime was sold to Congress as a money-saving initiative...and it's actually turned out to cost DoD more than Standard. Over the past several years, DoD has been complaining about rising health costs. Congress (and MOAA) has pushed back, asking the Pentagon to find ways to make health care delivery more efficient rather than just raising beneficiary fees. These TRICARE Prime curtailments are one of the unexpected responses to that effort.

When we're already fighting desperately to get Congress to stave off steep beneficiary fee hikes for Prime and Standard and TFL beneficiaries, it's tough to ask them to take on another battle over this (especially since Congress sees it as having been decided several years ago). We have raised it with the Armed Services Committee, and while they're sympathetic, the problem is the same as it was two years ago. If they want to prevent the Prime curtailment from happening, they have to find a way to plus up the health budget, which they're in a worse position to do now than they were two years ago.

We're very sensitive that shrinking Prime service areas is disruptive for people used to Prime to have to switch to Standard. We've tried to minimize that potential...urging the new contractor to persuade the old contractor's providers to be part of the new network, by pushing (successfully) to prevent large increases in the Standard deductible, and by pushing DoD to make contractors help beneficiaries locate providers who accept Standard. But we also have to acknowledge that large numbers of people actually end up preferring Standard once they try it, because (a) they don't pay anything until they actually need care, (b) they don't have to go through a cumbersome and time-consuming referral process to see a specialist, (c) they don't have to call to get permission to get a second opinion or to get care if they get sick or injured while traveling out of the area. On the other hand, Standard usually means more out-of-pocket costs because of the annual $150 ($300 family) deductible and 25% cost-share requirement.

If you live within 40 miles of a military hospital or clinic, you probably won't be affected. If you live within 100 miles of one, there's a chance you won't be affected. If you live more than 100 miles from one, there's a very good chance, you'll have to move from Prime to Standard.

MOAA will continue to press DoD to minimize these disruptions, be more transparent on the upcoming changes to the Prime network, and think outside the box when it comes to health care delivery besides taking the easy road by restricting beneficiary choices and/or increasing their fees. As we get more definitive information about potentially affected areas, we'll be putting it out.


2013 Part B Premiums Announced

Medicare officials announced new Part B premium rates for 2013. The basic monthly premium for Part B will jump 5% in 2013. For those with higher incomes, the monthly Part B increase will range from $7 to $16 (see chart below). By law, the premium must cover 25 percent of Medicare's expenses for the basic category, and cover 35% to 80% of expenses for higher-income groups.

2013 Medicare Part B Monthly Premiums (single NOT MARRIED)(
double income and premium amounts for married couples):

Individual Income

2012 Premiums

2013 Premiums

Change

Gov't Subsidy

Under $85K

$99.90

$104.90

+$5.00

75%

$85+K-$107K

$139.90

$146.90

+$7.00

65%

$107+K-$160K

$199.80

$209.80

+$10.00

50%

$160+K-$214K

$259.70

$272.70

+$13.00

35%

Above $214K

$319.70

$335.70

+$16.00

20%


In addition, the Part B deductible will be $147 for 2013 ( a $7 increase over last year).
The part A inpatient deductible will rise $28 to $1,184. Part A premiums, however, will actually drop to $441 a month - a $10 monthly reduction.
The bottom line: Most Medicare patients will actually see a slight reduction in their total Medicare premiums for 2013.


Why Must SBP-DIC Survivors Remarry? MOAA National 111612
USA Today has run a two-part video story on the bizarre and unfair law that requires military widows to remarry after age 57 to collect both SBP and DIC benefits. Fixing this inequity is a long-standing MOAA goal. View
part 1 and part 2 of the USA Today story.


Budget Cut Options Surface MOAA National 111612

As lawmakers and the White House start negotiations to stave off sequestration and several other end-of-year crises, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report, "Choices for Deficit Reduction," that includes an array of spending cut options for FY2013 and the out years.

Some of the options outlined in CBO's report would:

  • Raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67
  • Raise the full retirement age and the earliest eligible age for Social Security
  • Change the COLA formula for adjusting Social Security benefits

Others are aimed more specifically at military retirement and healthcare programs. While the descriptions in the new report are vague in some cases, we've identified more specific descriptions of many of them that CBO has published in previous budget-option packages.

Here are links to CBO-identified options that would:

Most of these proposals have been around for years, and have been rejected by Congress before. But in this political and budget environment, back-room deal-makers being pressed to come up with a package quickly will be disposed to simply grab some off-the-shelf options and worry about any potential consequences later. This is all the more reason to make your voice heard by sending the MOAA-suggested message.


Defense Bill Delayed, But Your Messages Are Working MOAA National 111612

Optimism that the FY2013 Defense Authorization Bill would be the first task on the lame-duck Senate's agenda went unfulfilled this week. Instead, Senate leaders say they'll start work on the defense bill after the Thanksgiving recess.

One reason was that senators hadn't yet reached agreement on what amendments would be offered. In addition, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) put a hold on the defense bill (which any senator can do under Senate rules) in hopes of getting leadership assurance of getting a vote on one of his proposed amendments. This setback didn't stop MOAA and its membership from continuing to push the Senate to adopt the House-passed provision that would limit TRICARE Pharmacy copay increases in exchange for a one year mandatory trial of the mail order pharmacy.

In little over two weeks MOAA members generated more than 90,000 messages to the Hill on this critical issue. MOAA also led a media blitz in the Washington D.C. area, running local radio advertisements in support of the House provision and working with our partners in The Military Coalition to run a full page ad in the influential newspapers The Hill and Politico.

All these efforts are making a difference, as we've received interest from several senators' offices about sponsoring a possible amendment on this issue. Please keep the pressure on your legislators with
MOAA's suggested message asking them to avoid tripling pharmacy copays by adopting defense bill language based on the House-passed provision.


Report targets military pay & benefits for debt-deal

By Tom Philpott Published: November 15, 2012

The Congressional Budget Office released a report on military compensation that puts a red laser dot on near-term pay raises, beneficiary healthcare fees and retirement of future forces as potential cost-saving targets Congress might want to consider in any debt-reduction deal. Thanks in part to what CBO says were pay raises that exceeded private sector wage growth through much of the last decade, the report estimates that military cash compensation increased by 52 percent from 2002 to 2010 while private sector wages rose by only 24 percent.

In 2012, a married E-4 with four to six years of service will receive “regular military compensation” valued at $50,860. RMC, the salary yardstick for the military, combines basic pay ($27,200 for that E-4) with subsistence allowance ($4,180), average Basic Allowance for Housing for the pay grade across U.S. housing areas ($14,820) and an estimated value for the tax advantages on tax-free allowances ($4,660). An officer example is given too. RMC for a married O-3 with six years of service is $92,220 this year.

In addition, CBO notes that some members receive enlistment or reenlistment bonuses, special or incentive pays for unique skills, and pay for serving in dangerous or difficult assignments including combat areas, which can mean tax breaks on part or all of their basic pay, too.

CBO discusses RMC after advising that $150 billion, or more than one quarter of the Defense Department’s “base” budget (which excludes the cost of current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan) will be spent this year on military pay and benefits for current forces and retirees. It goes on to propose ways to curtail compensation costs.

More on this can be read online at Costs of Military Pay and Benefits in the Defense Budget.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, requested the report. It describes recent gains to service compensation, projected growth, the history of cost-sharing under TRICARE and even how court rulings knocked down claims by older retirees that recruiter promises had bound the military to provide free health care for life.

One approach to cut costs is to “restrict basic pay raises” as Defense officials proposed last April, CBO says. Any grand bargain to address the debt crisis in coming months could include many unpleasant surprises for beneficiaries of federal programs.

DOD proposed a raise of 1.7 percent this January and in 2014. These were touted as big enough to keep pace with private sector wage growth but CBO projects they will fall short. And even deeper pay caps are proposed for the next three years. The administration’s 2015 raise would be only .5 percent, followed by 1 percent in 2016 and 1.5 percent in 2017. Pay caps could hurt recruiting and retention, CBO concedes, but this can be mitigated with more and bigger enlistment and reenlistment bonuses. Unlike pay hikes, CBO says, bonuses “do not compound from year to year and they have no effect on the value of future retirement annuities.” If negotiators were to agree to a pay-cap plan, military pay would lose nine percent to private sector wage growth over the five-year period, the report says. But this is only an option not a recommendation, CBO adds.

Another way to slow compensation growth, it says, is to raise TRICARE enrollment fees, deductibles or copayments, actions also proposed by the administration last April. For working-age retirees, those under 65, fee hikes should be phased-in over five years and use a “tiered approach” so that senior-grade retirees would pay higher fees than lower-ranking retirees. DOD also seeks a new annual enrollment fee for the TRICARE for Life insurance supplement to Medicare, used by retirees 65 and older. CBO says higher enrollment fees not only would raise collections but also discourage retirees and families from relying on military health care versus civilian employer health insurance. Higher deductibles and co-pays would restrain use of medical services too and also lower TRICARE costs. CBO raises another option it floated last year: prohibiting working-age military retirees and families from TRICARE Prime, the military’s managed care option. Instead, they would use only TRICARE Standard, the fee-for-service insurance option, or TRICARE Extra, the preferred provider option. Or presumably they would use health insurance offered by current employers. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, embraced this idea last year in a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Debt Reduction, a concession to avoid across-the-board cuts to defense programs called for under the “sequestration” trigger of the 2011 Budget Control Act. Sequestration must be carried out starting by Jan. 2, 2013, if Congress doesn’t agree to a $1.2 trillion debt-cutting deal.

CBO says restricting Prime access to retirees under 65 and their family members would save as much as $10 billion a year. Congress so far has rejected this, along with calls to raise TRICARE fees or to change military retirement for future recruits.

The CBO report reviews options for changing retirement. It notes that a less generous plan, if only for new entrants, still would save on the DOD “accrual” costs, the funding required every year to cover obligations to future generations of retirees.

Like most Americans, military people are confused and frustrated by the failure of Congress to reach a debt-reduction deal. The CBO report reminds the military community that how the deal gets made could be as consequential to their families as that fearsome drive off the “fiscal cliff.”

 

 



SENATOR TIM SCOTT:
2500 City Hall Lane
3rd Floor
North Charleston, SC 29406
Phone (843) 554-9253
Fax (843) 554-9520

REPRESENTATIVE MARK SANFORD
322 Cannon House Office Building
Wash., DC 20515-4001
(202) 255-3176
COS John Kohan

2000 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.
Suite 3007
Charleston, SC 29407
(843) 852-2222
POC April Stuhr

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:
Regional Director Mr. Bill Tuten
530 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Suite 203
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone 849-3887

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