Legislative Newsletter Update 8 June 2009 




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


In this issue

  • Policy Change Ahead for TRICARE Prime Enrollees
  • McHugh nominated for Secretary of the Army
  • AUSA to Congress: Protect TRICARE and VA Healthcare

Policy Change Ahead for TRICARE Prime Enrollees

AUSA learned last week that the Defense Department will start enforcing a long-established policy concerning travel access standards for TRICARE Prime enrollees.  The policy enforcement could mean some significant changes for many Prime enrollees.

Travel access standards to help beneficiaries receive timely health care have been in place for some time.  The standards require that enrollees shouldn't be assigned a primary care manager at a military hospital or clinic that's more than a 30-minute drive from the beneficiary's home address.

As a practical matter, DoD never really enforced that policy.  But it will be enforced now.

If they want to continue to be seen in the military treatment facility (MTF), current Prime enrollees in the U.S. who live farther away than a 30-minute drive from the MTF will have to request a waiver of the drive-time standard from the MTF commander or the TRICARE Regional Office.  Drive times will be determined by a computer program similar to MapQuest.  Approved waivers will have to be renewed annually from now on.

Unless enrollees apply for and are granted a waiver before October 1,  those who live more than 30 minutes (but less than 40 miles) from the MTF will be assigned a civilian primary care manager closer to their residence.  Absent a waiver, those who live more than 40 miles from the MTF will be disenrolled from Prime and revert to TRICARE Standard as of October 1.

TRICARE contractors are in the process of mailing letters to all affected beneficiaries, providing detailed instructions on the waiver process. 

McHugh nominated for Secretary of the Army

President Barack Obama announced last week that he intends to nominate New York Republican Rep. John McHugh as the 21st Secretary of the Army.

McHugh, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, represents the northern region of New York that includes Plattsburgh, Watertown and Fort Drum – home of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.  He is serving his ninth term.

Before becoming ranking member of the full committee, he was ranking member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel and served as chairman of the Total Force Subcommittee which oversees funding related to military personnel issues; health care benefits; Department of Defense schools; morale, welfare and recreation programs; and commissary and post exchange systems.

In making the announcement at the White House, President Obama said, “I am proud to announce John McHugh as the next Secretary of the Army.  John is a dedicated public servant who will keep us safe and keep our sacred trust with our soldiers and their families.”

Adding, “He is committed to keeping America’s Army the best- trained, the best-equipped, the best-led land force the world has ever seen. … He will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full-spectrum of challenges and threats of our time … and he brings patriotism and a pragmatism that has won respect on both sides of the aisle.”

In accepting the nomination, and as reported June 3 in the Washington Post, McHugh said, “I grew up in the shadows of Fort Drum.  For the last 20 years, I’ve worked in concert with those men and women and the communities around that great facility in support of the men and women of the 10th Mountain Division. … The Army has always had a special place in my heart.”

McHugh, who returned in early February from a five-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit military leaders and the troops, has been a strong supporter of soldiers and military families.

In 2003, the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) presented McHugh with its Outstanding Legislator Award for his service as the co-chairman of the House Army Caucus, a bi-partisan group that works with the Army to raise the visibility of the Army’s needs, to inform members of Congress of the importance of the nation’s conventional capabilities and to assist the Army on presenting its programs to Congress.

At a ceremony held on Capitol Hill, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., said, “As chairman, [Congressman McHugh] is a tireless advocate of military pay equity, elimination of out-of-pocket housing costs, and end strength increases for the active component and increases in full-time support for the reserve components.”

Sullivan, who has known and worked with the congressman for the past 20 years, also noted that McHugh has moved legislation to enhance the way the nation treats its men and women in uniform and their families.

McHugh is still serving as caucus co-chairman.

In May 2007, at the AUSA First Region Meeting at Fort Drum, the region’s annual Mary G. Roebling Award was presented to McHugh by Norm Harkins, region president, for his outstanding support of the Army, soldiers and soldiers’ families.

“The efforts I make,” McHugh said accepting the award, “on behalf of these heroes hardly seem heroic. Remember, we owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

“The President could not have made a better choice to serve as Secretary of the Army,” Sullivan said.

Adding, “Congressman McHugh is the right man, at the right time and in the right place to lead this nation’s largest land fighting force – America’s Army – and the thousands of men and women, many serving in harm’s way, who have volunteered to keep us free.”

Known and respected by both Democrats and Republicans, as a knowledgeable and articulate spokesman on national defense and national security issues, McHugh, who currently serves on the Board of Visitors of the United States Military Academy at West Point, if confirmed, will tackle the many challenges facing the Army as it fights the global war of terrorism while dealing with the budget and procurement issues recently enacted by Congress.

AUSA to Congress: Protect TRICARE and VA Healthcare

AUSA, along with its partners in The Military Coalition (TMC), delivered a letter to Congress today urging that they “ensure that the unique identity and role of the military TRICARE and VA health delivery systems are preserved under any national health plan that Congress may develop.”

As Congress starts work on a health care reform bill, AUSA believes it is critical that we are on the record as refusing to allow military retirees and veterans’ health care to be included with the general population if a new system is created.

The letter to Congress states, “Although these health systems are far from perfect, TMC believes our nation is far better served by maintaining them as unique Departmental programs rather than seeking to incorporate them into a national system that does not recognize the government’s unique responsibilities to these unique populations.”

Please be assured that AUSA and The Military Coalition will closely monitor developments on Capitol Hill and will take swift action as needed.