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Personnel Subcommittee mark-up rejects increase in health-care fees

Friday, June 28, 2013

Early news is good for AUSA priorities. The long legislative process with getting the defense authorization bill passed and signed by the president has started. Subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee recently marked up their portions of the bill.

The news from the Personnel Subcommittee’s markup is very promising with regards to several of AUSA’s top issues.

The subcommittee agreed with AUSA and rejected DoD’s continued attempts to raise military health-care fees by increasing TRICARE Prime enrollment fees and pharmacy copays and establishing an enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life and TRICARE Standard.

An AUSA salute to Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Ranking Member Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., and the rest of the subcommittee for their steadfast support of AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition on this issue.

In fact, Wilson said, "Congress spoke last year and the year before on this issue. I find it difficult to understand the department’s continued effort to increase fees."

The subcommittee also rejected the 1 percent pay raise for military personnel proposed by the Pentagon and instead is proposing a 1.8 percent raise.

DoD’s proposal would have been the smallest since 1958 and the first time since 1999 that the increase would not have at least matched average private sector wage growth.

Wilson said the proposed 1.8 percent would match last year’s average increase in private sector wages.

The subcommittee’s markup would also:

Reduce the number of general and flag officer billets by 24.

Ensure service end-strength requests are within the limitations for reductions set by the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

Reaffirm the committee’s commitment to the operational reserves by requiring a minimum 180 day notification before deployment or cancellation of deployment.

Provide further authority to improve National Guard readiness.

Authorize the commander of Special Operations Command to use SOCOM funding for family support services.

Bar command authorities from dismissing all but minor sexual offenses from a court-martial.

Prohibit command authorities from reducing a guilty finding in a sexual assault case to a lesser offense.

Eliminate the five-year statute of limitations on sexual assaults and establish dismissal or dishonorable discharge as the mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit those offenses.

Allow consideration of victims’ applications for permanent changes of station or unit transfers.

Amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to expand certain mortgage protections for service members, surviving spouses, and veterans; to make knowing violations of these protections a criminal offense; and to increase civil penalties for violations of these protections.

Authorize the secretary of the Army to award the Army Combat Action Badge to a person who, while a member of the Army, participated in combat during which the person personally engaged, or was personally engaged by, the enemy at any time during the period beginning on Dec. 7, 1941, and ending on Sept.18, 2001.

Of interest in the Readiness Subcommittee’s markup is their rejection of any new base realignment and closures for 2015. They also included a requirement that the Pentagon report to Congress on steps taken to minimize any negative impact of civilian furloughs.

As we said, the news is promising; however, this is only the first step. As we go to press, the bill is headed to the full committee for markup and then to the House floor.

 

Stolen Valor Act clears Congress. A bill that would punish people who falsely claim to have won military awards, such as the Medal of Honor, and profit from those lies has passed both chambers of Congress and is headed to the president for signature.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 made it a crime to lie about military service and awards, but was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012.

Introduced by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (H.R. 258) would be constitutional because it focuses on those who seek to benefit from misrepresentations of military service and awards.

Heck’s more narrowly-focused bill states, "whoever, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds oneself out to be a recipient of a decoration or medal shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

The bill covers issues ranging from lying to receive veteran or health care benefits to obtaining a government contract or getting a job reserved for a veteran.