Legislative Newsletter Update 2 February 2010 

2/2/2010 

 

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



       
 

In this issue:

  • President Submits 2011 Budget to Congress
  • Amendment would Fix 21 Percent Medicare/TRICARE Payment Cut
     


★★★

PRESIDENT SUBMITS 2011 BUDGET TO CONGRESS

President Obama submitted a $3.8 trillion budget blueprint for fiscal 2011 to Congress yesterday.  Of the $3.8 trillion, the Army is requesting $143.4 billion and an additional $102.2 billion for overseas contingency operations.  These requests were part of the overall defense request of $549 billion in its base budget and $159 for overseas operations, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This represents 1.8 percent real growth,” Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press conference yesterday. 

The base budget has active Army end strength at 547,000; the Army National Guard at 358,200 and the Army Reserve at 205,000.  It also requests a 6 percent increase to $6.3 billion for Special Operations Command to expand by 2,800 service members, primarily soldiers.

The overseas contingency operations (OCO) request asks for funding to pay for an additional 22,000 active-duty soldiers. It also wants funding to pay for the mobilization of 28,700 Army Reserve soldiers and 52,800 Army National Guard soldiers in the coming fiscal year. 

Tthe budget blueprint is also requesting:

  • a 1.4 percent increase in military and civilian pay;
  • a 4.2 percent in Basic Allowance for Housing and the Basic Allowance for Subsistence;
  • an increase of $500 million for military family support programs, including about $440 million to build and repair DoD schools.
  • approximately $400 million for selective reenlistment bonuses;
  • $544 million for recruiting and other advertising;
  • $42 million for Comprehensive Soldier Fitness;
  • $1.1 billion for treatment, care and research of Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health issues;
  • $16.9 billion for military construction; and,
  • $1.8 billion for family housing.

We were surprised and very pleased to see that the budget requested $50.7 billion to fully fund the Military Health System without an increase in fees and co-pays.  Looking at the health care portion of the budget, Secretary Gates said, “There has not been an increase in premiums since [TRICARE] was founded in 1995.”  He said that a family of three in the TRICARE system was paying $1,500 in premiums while a family of three in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Programs was paying about $3,300.  He added the department wants to work with Congress on costs because they’re “only going to keep going up.”

DoD said health care costs in its facilities are rising about 4 to 5 percent annually.  In the purchased care system, costs are rising about 6 percent per year.  The budget reports 9.5 million beneficiaries in the Military Health System.

With regards to the military construction request, Kathleen Miller, Acting Director of the Army Budget, said the reason for the decline in military construction is most of the projects for Base Realignment and Closure have been accounted for.  BRAC is to be completed by September 2011.  For example more than $5 billion was spent on BRAC-related activities last year and about $800 million for family housing.  The Army BRAC-related request is for $1.1 billion and $610 million for family housing. 

The request also includes money to continue the Department of Defense’s in-sourcing program, especially in procurement.  About 22,000 civilians are expected to be hired over the next four years to fill those positions.

Also included is a request for $296 million to cover the costs of moving federal civilian employees out of the National Security Personnel System.  Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said, “We hope to have everyone out of [the National Security Personnel System] by the end of the year.”  “If you’re between two steps [in the general schedule] you will go to the higher step.”

He also said that the Office of Management and Budget has again requested full Concurrent Receipt for Chapter 61 retirees with service-connected disabilities.  “But there will have to be an offset” in other entitlement programs.  This has been a long-time goal of AUSA’s. 

Hale warned Congress not to boost the pay increase by a half percent.  He said that would add about $500 million this year and would have a cumulative effect on future spending particularly in training and equipping.

He said the defense budget is expected to grow 1 percent over inflation over each of the five years following fiscal 2011.  Most other cabinet departments are in a three-year spending freeze.  He said the growth was needed to sustain the armed forces training and equipping needs.

The base budget request and the overseas operations request represent about 4.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product, he added.

Complete budget information is available at www.budget.mil.

 

AMENDMENT WOULD FIX 21 PERCENT MEDICARE/TRICARE PAYMENT CUT


On Friday, the Senate approved H.J. Res 45, a bill that increases the national debt limit.  Included in the bill was an amendment offered by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that would provide a five-year fix for the 21 percent cut in Medicare/TRICARE payments to physicians scheduled to take effect on Mar. 1.

The House is scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday.  If approved, as expected, the legislation would give Congress five years to come up with a permanent fix.  However, as we know, Congress does not always do what we expect.  Therefore, we are asking that you send an AUSA-suggested message to your representative urging that they vote for H.J. Res 45.  Go to AUSA’s website, www.ausa.org, click on the “Contact Congress” link, type in your zip code beside “Elected Officials”, and scroll down to “Vote for H.J. Res 45.”

We had hoped that Congress would permanently end the threat of annual Medicare/TRICARE payment cuts.  Finding doctors who accept TRICARE is already an enormous problem for the military community - particularly for Guard and Reserve families, retirees, and survivors who live in areas with a small military population.  Payment cuts would make the situation even worse.  At least the fix is for five years this time.