11 February 2013 Legislative News Update 

2/11/2013 

Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.




In this issue:

  • Call To Action!!!
  • Disappointing Military Pay Raise Proposed
  • "Doc Fix" Legislation Proposed
  • New Legislation Spotlight

★★★

CALL TO ACTION!!!

AUSA has been urging Congress to solve the sequestration puzzle since last March! If they do not act, it will kick in this March. The across-the-board budget cuts would severely damage the defense industrial base, and the ripple effects of layoffs and delayed or cancelled contracts could well plunge the national economy into recession. At a time when our nation faces a wide range of national security threats, should sequestration occur, equipment, maintenance and training accounts would take the brunt of the cuts and then we’ve hollowed out the force.

Please add your voice to ours by sending a letter to your representatives. Click here, enter your zip code and then click on the letter titled “Stop Sequestration Now”.
The fiscal process must be put back in order so that our defense forces can maintain readiness and their ability to defend this nation.

DISAPPOINTING MILITARY PAY RAISE PROPOSED

The Department of Defense needs to get personnel costs under control because those accounts have grown 80 percent since 2003. That’s what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters last week. He added that if steps are not taken now, it would force the department to cut military end strength and sacrifice readiness.

Panetta said that the proposed 2014 defense budget will request only a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel which would be the smallest pay raise in the 40-year history of the all-volunteer force.

AUSA has fought tirelessly for years to close the pay gap. While we had great success, we must be vigilant and not slide back to the time when tight budgets drove caps on military pay raises. The end result of continued caps is a crisis in retention and readiness. Soldiers who are willing to give their lives for their country should not be paid less than their civilian counterparts – period – end of discussion.

The secretary also said that the budget proposal will recommend another round of military base closures and will continue to look for savings in the TRICARE health program. Here we go again.

We at AUSA might view all of this in a different light if we had not just been informed by the General Accountability Office that it could not complete an audit of the federal government because of serious problems within the Department of Defense.

A letter to the President and House and Senate leaders that accompanied the report said that, "The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2012 consolidated financial statements of the federal government because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations. As was the case in 2011, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable.”

How does the Pentagon know that the personnel accounts have grown 80 percent?

The details of the budget will not be known until it reaches Capitol Hill. Although it was due Feb. 1, it is anticipated that it will not be released by the Administration until late March/early April.

“DOC FIX” LEGISLATION INTRODUCED

Could this be the year that the “doc fix” is finally fixed?

It will be if Reps. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., have their way. They introduced the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act that would ensure patient access to physicians while promoting efficiency, quality and value in health care delivery. The bipartisan legislation would permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula and defines a clear path toward comprehensive reforms of Medicare payment and delivery systems.
 
For years, the SGR formula which is used to determine payments for physicians’ services under Medicare and TRICARE, has threatened to impose steep cuts in Medicare payments for physicians who provide care to seniors and military beneficiaries. The cuts drive physicians out of Medicare, creating severe access problems for senior citizens and members of the military community.
 
The fiscal cliff legislation passed by Congress at the end of the year contained a one-year payment patch for physicians who treat Medicare/TRICARE patients.
 
The legislation would implement delivery system and payment reforms that would ensure long-term stability in the Medicare physician payment system and would contain\ the rising growth in health care costs.
 
The Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act:
 
* Permanently repeals the SGR formula;
* Provides annual positive payment updates for all physicians for four years;
* Ensures access to preventive care, care coordination, and primary care services through increased payment updates for those services;
* Aggressively tests and evaluates new payment and delivery models;
* Identifies a variety of unique payment models to provide options for providers across medical specialties, practice types, and geographic regions;
* Stabilizes payment rates for providers who demonstrate a commitment to quality and efficiency within a fee-for-service model; and,
* Ensures long-term stability in the Medicare physician payment system through predictable updates that accurately reflect the cost and value of providing health care services in coordinated care models.
AUSA strongly supports this important legislation.

NEW LEGISLATION SPOTLIGHT

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has introduced legislation that that will permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability between 0-40% to receive both their military retired pay and full disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
 
Sen. Reid said that the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2013 (S.234) “addresses an injustice against 625,000 disabled veterans across the country face. For the past 122 years, Congress has repeatedly forced the bravest men and women in our nation – retired, career veterans – to forfeit dollar-for-dollar their retirement pay if they also receive disability pay for an injury that occurred in the line of duty. This is simply wrong, and we owe it to our veterans to do better.
AUSA agrees and fully supports Sen. Reid’s efforts in getting this injustice corrected.