legislative lowdown - moaa tampa chapter

—submitted by Col. Ron Buchert, USAF, (Ret.) Member, MOAA Board of Directors (2000-2006) and Chapter Legislative Liaison
Congress has finally passed the FY 2015 MOAA Defense Bill.
MOAA legislative department head, Col. Mike Hayden, said that it had reCOL BUCHERT
sults for military personnel that were ''good, bad, and potentially ugly."
The GOOD: the DoD proposed budget capped the military pay raise at 1
percent (vs. a 1.8 percent raise established in law), reduced customer purchasing power at the
commissary by 66 percent, made major changes to TRICARE by consolidating all insurance
plans, increasing pharmacy fees, implementing means-testing, and establishing a TRICARE
for Life enrollment fee. Congress either rejected or significantly curtailed the Pentagon’s proposals. The final compromise blocked the consolidation of TRICARE systems and meanstesting TFL enrollment fees while limiting the impact of the commissary, housing allowance,
and pharmacy fee proposals to one year modifications.
The BAD: FY 2015 will be the second year of the military pay cap being below private sector wage growth and can be considered the emergence of a disturbing trend.
The POTENTIALLY UGLY: In an explanatory statement in the bill House and Senate
Armed Services committee members stated that they have not yet rejected DoD plans to further erode housing allowances or raising TRICARE pharmacy fees, and will again “commit to
consider” these proposals next year. The joint statement goes on to say that if sequestration
returns “DoD will need to make painful cuts and achieve substantial savings across its entire
budget in order to avoid an unacceptable reduction in readiness.” But we can’t forget that in
the late 1990s erosion of pay and benefits led to poor recruiting and retention, resulting in unacceptable readiness problems.
A welcome provision of the Defense bill will make troops wounded or killed by attacks
deemed to have had connections to foreign terrorist organizations eligible for the Purple Heart
medal. Prior to this change only personnel wounded or killed by an enemy combatant could
receive the medal. The families and victims of the 13 killed and the 30 wounded by the Army
psychiatrist at Ft. Hood in 2009 can now receive the medal and be eligible for increased medical and retirement benefits.
Republican House leaders recently announced some committee assignments that are expected to benefit military personnel significantly. Rep. Joe Heck, (R Nv). a Brigadier General
in the Army Reserve who deployed to Iraq in 2008, will head the military personnel subcommittee next year. Rep. Martha McSally (R Ariz), a former AF fighter pilot and squadron commander, will serve on the House Armed Services Committee.