23 July 2012 Legislative News Update 

7/23/2012 

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




In this issue:

  • Defense Spending Bill Clears House
  • Progress Made on Walgreen's, Express Scripts Spat
  • Your Help is Needed! (S.3254)

★★★

 

DEFENSE SPENDING BILL CLEARS HOUSE

The defense spending bill, passed by the House last week, would give members of the military a 1.7 percent pay raise, the percentage requested by the Obama Administration.

The nearly $606 billion appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 includes $518.1 billion for the base budget and $87.7 billion for the war in Afghanistan.

Much of last week’s floor debate centered on funding levels for Afghanistan and on efforts to reduce the deficit by cutting defense spending.  Originally, the funding level for 2013 was $519.1 billion; however, before the final vote, lawmakers approved an amendment that froze funding at the 2012 level.  In the end, the bill is still about $2 billion more than the President’s request and about $8 billion more than the cap set by last year’s Budget Control Act. 

In addition to the pay raise, the House adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., that prohibits funds from being used to implement an enrollment fee for the TRICARE For Life program and one that essentially kills any additional base realignment and closure rounds. 

What’s Next?

Although Senate appropriators have said that they will mark up their version of the defense spending bill before the August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Senate is unlikely to bring ANY spending legislation to the floor before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

In fact, House and Senate leaders are already talking about a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government after the new fiscal year begins.  There is even discussion of passing a CR that would fund the government until March of 2013!  What that suggests is a repeat of last year when the defense spending bill was not passed until April, six months late. 

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., is no fan of continuing resolutions especially when it comes to funding for the Defense Department.  Sullivan said, “In a time of war, expeditious completion of defense funding legislation is absolutely essential.  Our Army in the field needs timely access to appropriate funding.”  He asks Congress to “focus your considerable energies solely on completing a bill that will provide an uninterrupted stream of funds.”

PROGRESS MADE ON THE WALGREENS, EXPRESS SCRIPTS SPAT

Express Scripts, Inc., and the Walgreens pharmacy chain have announced a new agreement for Walgreens to return to the Express Scripts network beginning September 15, 2012.  However, it has not yet been determined if this means Walgreens will also return to the TRICARE network. 

Bitter contract negotiations over differences in reimbursement rates and contract terms led to the split at the end of 2011.  At that time, TRICARE customers were forced to either find another retailer in the TRICARE network or remain with Walgreens, pay full price and request reimbursement after paying out-of-pocket deductibles.

A Walgreen's spokesman said that it is ultimately up to individual health plans to determine whether or not Walgreens returns to their network.  As far as military families and retirees, that would be TRICARE who announced that they were exploring their options.

In addition to retail pharmacies, TRICARE beneficiaries can obtain their prescriptions at pharmacies located on military installations worldwide.  Prescriptions are free but beneficiaries should call first to see if the prescription can be filled.  Additionally, TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery is available.  It is the least expensive option after military pharmacies and prescriptions are mailed directly to beneficiaries. 

In fiscal 2011, TRICARE patients filled 35 percent of prescriptions at military treatment facilities, 55 percent at retail pharmacies and 8.8 percent through mail order.

For the latest information on TRICARE and Walgreens, visit TRICARE’s website at http://www.tricare.mil/walgreens/.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

We are still holding out hope that the Senate will bring the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill (S.3254) to the floor before they leave for the August recess. 

Several amendments important to AUSA and its members are expected to be introduced.  They include:

* An amendment that would repeal the requirement to offset VA dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) from the DoD Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities for the surviving spouses (Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.)

* Amendments that address compensation penalties imposed on disabled military retirees (Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.)

* An amendment to acknowledge that career military families pre-pay very large premiums for health care through decades of service and sacrifice (Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.)

* An amendment to bar making a false claim about military service or decorations for personal gain (Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.)

Please let your Senators know that you support these important amendments.  Click here to send an AUSA-suggested message.  Use the letter titled "Support Senate Defense Amendments".