Let me start with the good news.
The under-62 COLA reduction that was put into law in December has been rescinded for all personnel who entered military service before Jan. 1, 2014.
That is very good news for all currently serving personnel and all current retirees, and it only came as the result of a concerted effort by AUSA and its Military Coalition partners, as well as a strong grassroots outcry from you – our members and readers. Thank you!
Also, AUSA had a very successful Winter Meeting and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., spoke to attendees, and Vicki Plunkett, a professional staff member with the House Armed Services Committee, served on one of the panels.
Six other staffers from key congressional offices visited the exhibits and spoke with senior Army leaders.
Now let’s get to the not so good news.
At this writing, the 2015 defense budget proposal is just days away from publication.
However, as is always the case in Washington, much of what it contains is already on the street, in this case because the secretary of defense held a press conference to preview the defense portion of the federal budget proposal.
Unfortunately, much of the information he provided hits soldiers and their families in the wallet.
AUSA Government Affairs Assistant Director Julie Rudowski has the details in her "Capital Focus" (story below), but let me address a couple of issues.
The Defense Department proposes a below inflation pay raise that DoD calls "slowing the growth." We call it a failure to learn from history.
Below private sector inflation rate military raises in the 80s and 90s are what led to the 13.5 percent pay gap that it has taken more than a decade of above inflation pay raises to reduce.
It seems to fly in the face of logic to go down that road again.
There are vaguely worded proposals concerning TRICARE fees and copays.
AUSA believes that additional inefficiencies can be wrung out of the TRICARE system before shifting costs to beneficiaries. Enrollment fees currently offer a guaranteed access to care (TRICARE Prime).
As AUSA has said time and again, establishment of enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life without guaranteed access to care increases the cost of the benefit without enhancing the benefit.
The most important thing to remember as these proposals are published is that Congress has the final say.
It is Congress that you must tell about the impact of these proposals on your life and your family finances.
AUSA has prepared a letter to Congress that urges members to preserve military and veteran benefits.
Please add your voice to ours and send the letter using our website.
Go to www.ausa.org, click on the red "Contact Congress" button on the right side of the page. Put your zip code in the box entitled "Elected Officials" and then click on the prepared letter "Preserve Military and Veteran Benefits."
Together we can fight to keep the target of budget cuts off the backs of soldiers and their families.
As readers of AUSA NEWS know, General Sullivan is very concerned about the repercussions the spending cuts mandated by sequestration cause throughout DoD, exemplified by the reductions in this budget proposal.
Among the repercussions is a growth in the perception that military benefits might be ‘overly generous’ and need to more closely mirror private sector benefits.
He has made a concerted effort through letters to Congress and media outreach to send the message that:
The automatic, mindless cuts imposed by sequestration put the nation’s defense posture at serious risk.
Military service requires extraordinary sacrifice by those serving and their families over two to three decades – in essence, they write a blank check to the United States for an amount up to and including their life.
The unique nature of military retirement and healthcare benefits plays a key role in inducing high quality people to serve a full career under arduous conditions that civilians do not face.
Our government imposes no limits on the sacrifices of those who serve a career in uniform – less than 1 percent of our population – and in turn it must provide a substantial and predictable compensation package.
The richest nation on earth can afford to continue the current retirement system and benefits package for those few who defend it with a lifetime of service, if we as a nation are truly committed to those who are willing to carry our colors into battle.
To these thoughts we will add that Congress has provided military retirement, compensation and health benefits that exceed civilian benefits as an essential offset to the unique demands and sacrifices inherent in a military career, which far surpass the demands made on civilian workers.
This is hardly a prudent time to impose further financial sacrifices on military beneficiaries.
Read AUSA NEWS each month for the latest information on what will be an interesting legislative year.