The Administration’s budget was two months late, but given what was in it for AUSA constituents, it would have been better to not have it at all. Let’s start with the one percent pay raise – the smallest since 1958 and the first time since 1999 that the increase has not at least matched average private sector wage growth. It seems that the Department of Defense (DoD) cannot learn from history. In the 80s and 90s capping pay increases below private sector growth led to enormous retention problems. AUSA will continue to fight for pay parity.
Pay of course is not the only issue. Healthcare is again in the sights of budget balancers. In spite of the $2.5 billion in surplus TRICARE funds over the last three years, DoD again is raising the specter of “exploding” health care costs that would cripple defense in order to attempt to increase TRICARE Prime enrollment and co-pay fees, impose new enrollment fees and higher annual deductibles for TRICARE Standard and Extra, impose enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries, and new or higher prescription drug co-pays. AUSA and its Military Coalition partners will fight long and hard to keep these increases from being enacted.
Then there is the proposal to use the “chained” Consumer Price Index to determine cost –of-living increases. “Chained CPI” is a calculation that would lower annual increases by .3 percent less than the current formula. Over a lifetime that small change in calculation would result in an average loss of about 8.5% for an enlisted retiree and 7.2 percent for the officer retirees. That translates into almost $171,000 for enlisted personnel and $246,000 for officers. AUSA and its Military Coalition partners are working together to oppose this proposal and again send the message that trying to balance the budget and reduce the deficit on the backs of military retirees is wrong.
It is disingenuous for administration and DoD leaders to impose such changes on those brave few Americans who have dedicated themselves to a career of sacrifice for our nation. This is what is meant by “breaking faith” and if allowed to pass, these proposals will have profoundly negative effects on the All-Volunteer Army.
Help us and contact your members of Congress using the AUSA website www.ausa.org. Click on the Legislative Action Center at the bottom of the page, and then click on the “Contact Congress” button. Put your zip code in the box titled “Elected Officials” and then click on the prepared letters concerning healthcare and retirement benefits. Together we can preserve the benefits that are earned with a lifetime of service.