AUSA responds to TRICARE increases for retirees 

11/1/2009 

Julie Rudowski
Assistant Director, Government Affairs

No TRICARE inpatient fee increase.  AUSA recently learned that the Defense Department raised inpatient co-pays for retired TRICARE Standard beneficiaries by $110 per day.

To say that we were shocked and disappointed is an understatement. We believed that the Defense Department would not be proposing any TRICARE fee increases for FY 2010 based on public assurances from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Quickly responding to the announcement, AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition sent a letter to Defense Secretary Gates strongly protesting the fee increase.

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., then sent letters to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership asking that they block the fees by adding a provision in the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Bill. 

Good news!

They listened and added a provision that blocks the fee increase for 2010.

However, the battle to fight TRICARE fee increases is not over. We expect proposals such as this one to come up repeatedly.

AUSA and The Military Coalition, a consortium of nationally prominent military and veterans associations representing more than 5.5 million active duty, guard, reserve, retired and former members of the uniformed services will use every weapon in its arsenal to fight any increases in TRICARE.

Details of FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act revealed. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have announced the final details of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.

We have much to cheer about, but there are also some major disappoints.

First, a tip of the hat goes to the Committees for:

Authorizing a 3.4 percent across-the-board pay raise, 0.5 percent above the budget request and the annual increase in the Employment Cost Index. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-03, Point 1)

Authorizing an extra 30,000 troops for the Army (15,000 above the budget request). (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-08, Point 1)

Authorizing the secretary of defense to increase the Army’s active-duty end strength by 30,000 above 2010 levels during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 if sufficient funding is requested by the Defense Department in the budgets for those fiscal years.

Preventing increases in co-payments for inpatient care at civilian hospitals under TRICARE Standard during FY2010. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-05, Point 11)

Authorizing full funding for the Defense Health Program. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-05, Point 1)

Authorizing special compensation for designated caregivers for the assistance they provide to service members with catastrophic injuries or illnesses when, in the absence of that assistance, the service member would require hospitalization or institutional care. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-05, Point 16)

Requiring retention of wounded guard/reserve members on active duty through completion of disability determination process.

Mandating initiatives to protect absentee voting rights for military members and families.

Authorizing $49 million to assist school districts with significant populations of military children. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-01, Point 3)

Extending eligibility for TRICARE Standard to reserve component area retirees who have not yet reached age 60, also known as gray area retirees. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-05, Point 15)

Phasing in the allowance of unused sick leave to be applied toward length of service for purposes of computing a retirement annuity under the Federal Employee Retirement System. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-02, Point 13)

Providing $6.7 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, an increase of $1.2 billion above the president’s budget request to fund the requirement for MRAP All-Terrain vehicles (M-ATV) being deployed to Afghanistan.

Adding $600 million to address equipment shortfalls in the National Guard and reserve. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-09)

Providing full funding for most Army programs, including: AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Blackhawk, UH-72 Lakota, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, and CH-47 Chinook helicopters; M1 Abrams tank and M2 Bradley infantry vehicle modernization; and Patriot air defense missile systems. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-16)

AUSA thanks the Congress for including these important provisions; however, we are disappointed that other important AUSA-supported provisions were dropped during the conference negotiations.

This includes the House plan to phase out the disability offset to retired pay for medically retired (Chapter 61) members that was dropped from the final bill. 

This surprised many because it was included in the president’s budget request and House leaders had found funding for the first year.  Some in the Senate objected to the specific funding sources identified by the House, and leaders could not find other offsets to comply with Senate budget-scoring rules.  (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-03, Point 18)

The Senate initiative to repeal the deduction of VA survivor benefits from military SBP annuities was dropped again for lack of funding offsets. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-04, Point 3)

A Senate-passed provision that would have allowed military spouses to choose to establish the same domicile as their service member for voting and tax purposes was dropped. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-01, Point 22)

Also removed from the final bill was a Senate-approved provision to authorize retroactive reserve retirement age credit for active duty service since Sept. 11, 2001 (current law credits only service since Jan. 28, 2008), again for lack of funding offsets. (2009 AUSA Resolution 09-04, Point 8)

AUSA will continue to push Capitol Hill to find funding for these important issues.  Surely when they can find billions of dollars for stimulus packages and assorted bailouts, they can find the money for what would benefit those that have given so much.