19 March 2012 Legislative News Update 

3/19/2012 

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



              
  

In this issue:

  • Armed Services Committee Chairman Addresses DoD Budget Items
  • Coalition Provides Testimony on Personnel Issues
 

★★★

 

ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ADDRESSES DOD BUDGET ITEMS

In a speech he made last week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library and in a letter he sent to the Budget Committee, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon, R-Calif., outlined his position on several items contained in the Defense Department budget proposal.

McKeon said that the proposed $43 billion in cuts to the defense budget will “affect every American base, installation, and military unit in the world in some way, shape, or form.   And they won’t just hurt our national security.  These cuts, deeply damaging to our defense, will hurt everyone associated with the military”

McKeon is clear on where he stands with regards to the proposed TRICARE fee increases.  He said, “In last year’s defense bill, we acknowledged that modest increases in certain areas of military health care were appropriate.  Those fees were both reasonable and small.  But recent proposals to pump up military healthcare by up to three hundred percent is absolutely unacceptable.  When our troops made a decision to volunteer for service, they entered a sacred agreement with this government.  Part of that agreement was that their medical needs would be met.  We made a solemn covenant with them -- we cannot, and we must not break it.”

In the letter to the Budget Committee, McKeon said that the Armed Services committee is concerned about the TRICARE fee increases.  He mentioned recent testimony given by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta regarding TRICARE.  Panetta said, “What we’ve done in TRICARE is basically provided fee increases for those that are covered by TRICARE…I’ve got to do something to try to control those costs and this was one of the ways we thought made sense.” 

McKeon disagrees with the Defense Secretary.  He says that increasing the fees merely funds the increased costs, not controls them.  He said that the Administration’s request simply passes costs to others instead of reducing costs from with the system.  “After ten years of war, our troops have endured enormous stresses, hardships, and consequences from their wartime service.  They should not have to return home to such significant near-term increases in healthcare costs for their families, McKeon wrote.

The specter of sequestration was also addressed.  Sequestration, McKeon said would push “us far past the limit of acceptable risk, and would put this great country in great danger.”  McKeon said that if sequestration passes unscathed, approximately $100 billion a year would be cut from the military for the next decade. 

He added that active duty military, reservists federal civilians and contractors would be laid off.  McKeon said that he estimates that "around one and a half million people will lose their jobs as a result of the defense cuts in sequestration" and that the "economic areas around military bases, the ones that survive, will experience a decrease in business."

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., shares Chairman McKeon’s concern with regards to sequestration and has expressed his concerns to senior congressional leaders.  He is urging Congress to focus on preparing legislation that will undo the sequestration scheduled to occur in January 2013 as it pertains to the defense budget. 

Please add your voice to his and send a letter of your own using our website. Go to www.ausa.org, click on “Legislative Action Center” at the bottom of the page. Put your zip code in the box entitled “Elected Officials and then click on the prepared letter “Stop Sequestration Now”.  Together we can fight to keep the target of budget cuts off the backs of soldiers and their families. We also have several letters you can send on TRICARE fee increases and preserving earned benefits.  Your voice does make a difference.   


COALITION PROVIDES TESTIMONY ON PERSONNEL ISSUES

The Military Coalition, a group of 34 military-related associations of which AUSA is a member, collectively represents over 5 million members.  Numbers like that resonate on Capitol Hill.

One of the ways that the Coalition advocates before Congress is through testimony at congressional hearings.  This year the Coalition provided detailed information on its positions to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees’ Personnel Subcommittees. 

Here are some of the highlights contained in the Coalition’s testimony:

Military Pay - The Coalition urges a continuation of fully comparable military pay raises based on the Employment Cost Index annual increases while also urging Congress to ensure that any restructure of the DoD and VA disability and compensation systems does not inadvertently reduce compensation levels for disabled service members.

Military families - The Coalition warns the Congress to resist any initiatives to civilianize or consolidate DoD retail systems in ways that would reduce their value to patrons.  It also urges maintenance of Impact Aid funding for schools, funding for Family Readiness Councils, Yellow Ribbon programs, child care programs, spouse education programs as well as the implementation of flexible spending accounts to enable military families to pay health care and child care expenses with pre-tax dollars.

Reserve Component - The Coalition would like to see early retirement credit authorized for all RC members who have served active duty tours of at least 90 days retroactive to Sept 11, 2001 as well as additional improvements to the yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.  The coalition also urges the Congress to enact academic protections for mobilized RC students including refund guarantees and exemption of federal student loan payments during activation and to increase specialized family support and training for programs that help geographically separated RC families.

Concurrent Receipt - A key Coalition goal continues to be to achieve full concurrent receipt for military retirees who have service-caused disability.  VA disability compensation should be added not subtracted from service-earned military retired pay.

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) – Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) - Another long time goal for the coalition is the elimination of the SBP–DIC offset as well as authorization by Congress of survivors to retain the final month’s retired pay for the month in which the military retiree dies.

A hearing on healthcare issues will be held later this week. The Coalition will have a representative testifying at that important hearing.