Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
Obama Administration: TRICARE is Safe and Sound Under Health Reform
Army Chief of Staff Gives Details on the State of the Army
TRICARE Program for Gray Area Reservists Coming
★★★OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: TRICARE IS SAFE AND SOUND UNDER HEALTH REFORM
The White House recently took steps to assure Americans who are covered by the military’s TRICARE health care system that legislation currently being debated in the House and Senate would not affect TRICARE benefits.
The blog, posted by Matt Flavin, Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy stated, “In recent days, a particularly disturbing myth about health insurance reform has resurfaced. Opponents of reform have dredged up the baseless charge that reform somehow will affect or increase the cost of the TRICARE benefits on which America’s troops and veterans depend.
“The President believes our nation's greatest strategic asset is our men and women in uniform. Our servicemen and women and their families have always sacrificed selflessly in defense of our ideals. That is why one of the President's top priorities since coming into office has been to give our veterans 'the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned.' That began with the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades, and with initiating the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record that will follow a member of the Armed Forces through their transition into VA care and stay with them for life.”
“And it's why there is absolutely nothing in health reform that will affect TRICARE benefits.
“The most recent TRICARE fear-mongering comes by way of viral email and relies on a document prepared by the government analysts before President Obama took office which outlined potential options for containing health care costs. But here's the thing: none of these options have been proposed by President Obama or adopted in health reform legislation.
“In addition, there are reports out there that new taxes will be imposed on TRICARE. That is not true either. There are no new taxes. No cuts in benefits. If you hear a politician telling voters that health reform will hurt TRICARE, don’t believe him.
“If you rely on TRICARE, you have nothing to worry about.”
While we appreciate the assurance from the White House, we have learned (the hard way) that proposed legislation can change or be interpreted differently than expected. That’s why we need for you to help us keep the pressure on Congress. Go to AUSA’s website, www.ausa.org, click on the “Contact Congress” button at the top of the page and enter your zip code. We have several AUSA-suggested letters related to health care that you can send to your elected representatives.
ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF GIVES DETAILS ON THE STATE OF THE ARMY
The Army’s Chief of Staff told congressional staff members from key defense oversight committees as well as individual member’s offices that he expects 2010 to be “a particularly interesting year” as the service nears completion of its move to modular formations and rebalancing the force and lays the foundation for its future.
Speaking last week at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said, “This is a fundamentally different Army” from the Army of 2002-2003.
With President Obama’s decisions to increase American forces in Afghanistan and to drawdown American forces in Iraq, he said, “We have a level of clarity in force [demands] that we haven’t had” in recent years.
Casey added the active Army has grown by almost 20,000 soldiers in the past few years and will grow by 17,000 more in the next two years. The Army has “almost 100,000 more soldiers since 2004.”
He said, “As we gradually build dwell,” because of the lower demands for forces and increased size of the active Army, “we will steady the ship” and move into the rotational cycle of the Army Force Generation Model.
“We’re about 90 days away from knowing what the force pools will look like in 11, 12, 13.” The force pools are soldiers and units in reset having just returned from a deployment, soldiers and units in training for possible deployment and soldiers and units available for possible deployment.
Casey said, “We’re starting to come to grips with the third and fourth order of effects of modularity” – from family support to training to property accountability to the leader development backlog in the office and noncommissioned officer education system.
In addition, Casey said with the deployment cycle being one year out and one year back many soldiers “are not familiar with operating in a garrison environment.”
He expects that 70 percent of the active force will be in a one year available for deployment and two years in dwell in Fiscal Year 2011 and 80 percent of the reserve components to be in a one year available for deployment with four years in dwell.
With the budget due out in early February, he said he was quite satisfied with it and it will allow the Army to continue to prepare soldiers for both theaters.
“We have to maintain our force by sustaining our soldiers, our families, our civilians.” Casey said the Army will expand its Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program to families and civilians over the coming fiscal year, “press hard on implementing the Army Family Covenant” and do more with survivors who want to remain close to the Army.
“We have to manage ourselves better” by putting the right business management practices in place and fix the requirements process.
In addition to reducing the backlog in the professional military education systems, Casey said the coming year will see “more significant efforts on the civilian side.”
Lastly, he expects the year to be a time to look at refining the Army for the 21st century. “We need to do the intellectual work” on the active/reserve mix, special forces and their enablers, organizations themselves and a “unity of effort” on building the network.
TRICARE PROGRAM FOR GRAY AREA RESERVISTS COMING
The fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Act included a provision that will allow Guard and Reserve retirees who have no reached age 60 (gray-area retirees) to purchase health care coverage under TRICARE. This has been a long-time goal of AUSA’s and we consider it a major legislative victory.
TRICARE officials recently released some details about the new program tentatively named “TRICARE Retired Reserve”. The program will allow gray-area retirees to purchase TRICARE Standard (and Extra) coverage. TRICARE Extra simply means beneficiaries have lower out of pocket costs if they use a network provider.
“We’re working hard to coordinate all the details of eligibility, coverage and costs, and expedite implementation of this important program,” said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity. “This is a major benefit program with implementation on the same magnitude as TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS). It will require detailed design, development and testing, but qualified retired reservists should be able to purchase coverage by late summer or early fall of 2010.”
While the health care benefit provided for gray-area retirees will be TRICARE Standard and Extra – similar to TRS – the new program will differ from TRS in its qualifications, premiums, copayment rates and catastrophic cap requirements.
The new statute requires premium rates to equal the full cost of the coverage. That is the major difference contrasted with TRS, where the statute provides that Selected Reserve members pay only 28 percent of the cost of the coverage. Premiums for the new gray area retiree program will be announced after program rules are published in the Federal Register.
This new program offers an important health coverage option for Reserve and National Guard members who served their country honorably before hanging up their uniforms at retirement, said Hunter.
We will provide updates on the TRICARE Retired Reserve program as details become available.