At least we now know where we stand. After weeks of speculation, President Obama formally released the details of his budget request for fiscal 2013. The budget would provide $525 billion for the Defense Department's base budget which is a 1.1 percent reduction from what Congress approved for fiscal 2012. It would also provide $88.5 billion for overseas operations.
After reading the details of the budget request, there are several things we like, but unfortunately, even more to dislike. The President’s Budget proposes to:
- Provide a pay raise of 1.7 percent, consistent with the Employment Cost Index
- Increase basic housing allowance by 4.2 percent
- Increase basic allowance for subsistence by 3.4 percent
- Provide $8.5 billion for family support programs
- Downsize the Army to 490,000 (down 72,000) by 2017 and the Army National Guard/Reserve to 558,200 (down 5000)
- Cut eight Army Brigade Combat Teams (pending further review)
- Request two new base closure rounds (BRAC), one in 2013 and another in 2015
- Delay development of the Army’s Ground Combat vehicle due to contracting delays
- Slow basic pay raises in the years beyond fiscal 2014
- Recommend that Congress establish a commission to conduct a comprehensive review of military retirement.
- Increase TRICARE fees, initiate new fees and increase pharmacy co-pays.
For beneficiaries using TRICARE Prime (Family) and receiving retired pay of $0-22,589, the proposed rates would increase from $520 for fiscal 2012 to $893 by fiscal 2017. For beneficiaries receiving retired pay of $22,590-45,178, the proposed rates would increase from $520 for fiscal 2012 to $1,523 by fiscal 2017. Retirees receiving retired pay above $45,179 would see rates increase from $520 to $2,048 by 2017.
For TRICARE Standard (Family), the enrollment fee for fiscal 2012 is $0. It would increase to $250 by 2017. The deductible is $300 for fiscal 2012. It would increase to $580 by 2017.
For the first time TRICARE-for-Life beneficiaries (per individual) would see an annual enrollment fee. For those receiving retired pay of $0-22,589, the annual enrollment fee would go from $0 to $158 by 2017. For retired pay of $22,590- $45,178, the fee would go from $0 to $317 by 2017. Retired pay of $45,179 and above would see the rate go from $0 to $475.
Retail (1 mo fill)
Generic – Currently $5, would rise to $9 by 2017
Brand – Currently $12, would rise to $34 by 2017
Mail-Order (3 mo fill)
Generic – Currently $0, would rise to $9 by 2017
Brand – Currently $9, would rise to $34 by 2017
Non-Formulary- Currently $25, would rise to $66 by 2017
It’s important to remember that the budget request is just that – a request. Congress will start holding hearings tomorrow. It’s also important that the Congress and the President hear from those who are affected by their actions at the “grassroots” level – the people whose lives are dramatically affected by changes that to some seem reasonable, but which are, in reality, simply an easy target on a constituency that is trained to serve and sacrifice rather than complain.
Now is the time to complain and to do so loudly. Please go to our website and find the prepared letters on the issue of retiree health care and retirement benefits and send them to your members of Congress and President Obama. You are not confined to what we have said in the letters, you may add your personal comments, and we urge you to do so Let those who have the power to reduce your benefits know how such action would affect you. After all, Soldiers are the essence of the Army.
As AUSA President GEN Gordon R. Sullivan has said time and again, “Military personnel are not a faceless group – they are the one percent of this nation’s population that are willing to carry our colors into battle and to offer up their life in the process. When they retire from the front line, they should be given the respect and dignity of a reliable benefits package that will not be changed.”
(To send a letter, go to www.ausa.org, click on “Legislative Action Center” at the bottom of the page, then click on the “Contact Congress” button. Put your zip code in the box titled “Elected Officials” and then click on the prepared letters concerning health care and retirement benefits.)
We, here at AUSA Headquarters will also do our part. We have contacted every member of Congress to let them know where we stand on the budget request, and we will join forces with our partners in The Military Coalition, who collectively represent more than 5.5 million members of the uniformed services.