The Senate passed its version of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540) on Thursday 1 December. The bill would authorize $527 billion for the base Pentagon budget with another $117 billion for overseas contingency operations and includes a 1.6 percent pay increase for military personnel.
In the process, Senate leaders considered almost 400 amendments, including many developed in cooperation between MOAA and various Senate sponsors. Many of these were blocked when the Senate voted to limit debate and restrict amendments.
But several survived, including amendments to:
· End deduction of VA survivor benefits (DIC) from military Survivor Benefit Plan annuities (Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL)
· Make the National Guard Bureau Chief a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Sen. Leahy, D-VT)
· Bar reduction of the basic housing allowance for National Guard making the transition from active to full-time National Guard duty (Sen. Brown, R-MA)
· Protect employment and re-employment rights for certain individuals ordered to full-time National Guard duty (Sen. Blunt, R-MO)
· Provide a death gratuity and related benefits for Reserves who die during an authorized stay at their residence during or between successive days of inactive duty training (Sen. Pryor, D-AR)
· Direct a review of all current DoD military spouse employment programs (Sen. Casey, D-PA)
Key provisions that were NOT adopted included amendments to:
· Further expand concurrent receipt (Sen. Reid, D-NV)
· Provide Servicemembers access to Flexible spending accounts to pay out-of-pocket health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars (Sen. Boxer, D-CA)
· Authorize expanded voluntary retirement and separation incentives to ease the negative effects of significant force reductions (Sen. Levin, D-MI)
· Acknowledge in law that career military people pre-pay extraordinary premiums for their healthcare through decades of service and sacrifice (Sen. Lautenberg, D-NJ)
· Allow SBP payments into a Special Needs Trust for dependent children incapable for self-support (Sen. Webb, D-VA)
· Provide veteran status to retired career members of the Guard and Reserves (Sen. Pryor, D-AR)
But this may not be the final word on these and other provisions.
Before bill passage, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) stated he would offer separate legislation consisting of 71 pending amendments to the bill that had been agreed to by both sides of the aisle, but which had been blocked by a procedural issue.One that may be included in that group is a Levin amendment that would establish a DoD BRAC-style commission to recommend "modernizing" the military compensation and retirement systems. Although it may have been modified, the original amendment would require an up-or-down vote by Congress, without any amendments.