12 February 2014 Legislative News Update
Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- COLA Cut Solution?
- AUSA President: Leave Design of the Army to Civilian & Military Leaders
COLA CUT SOLUTION?
While Congress agrees the under-62 military retiree COLA cut should be repealed, how to pay for it has been the $6 billion question.
The Senate voted this week (94-0) to invoke cloture on an AUSA-supported bill offered by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., that would simply repeal the cut without identifying any offsets to pay for it. This procedural vote cleared the way for a final vote on the bill.
The Pryor bill may be unnecessary because on the other side of the Hill, the House easily passed legislation that would repeal the cut, but only for the current force. It would remain in place for servicemembers who joined the military after Jan. 1, 2014. Shortly after the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signaled his willingness to go along with the House plan. In fact, the Senate will probably vote on it today.
The major difference between the House bill and the Senate’s is that the House offered a way to pay for the repeal. It would extend sequestration for mandatory programs for one year until 2024.
The House bill also established a $2.3 billion fund to pay for the “doc fix.”
Finding a permanent solution to the annual cuts in reimbursement rates for physicians who treat Medicare patients has proven to be next to impossible. Because payment rates in the TRICARE program are tied to Medicare rates, this affects many military beneficiaries. Each year, Congress implements short-term patches that merely make the problem worse.
Money included in the House bill could either be used to fund another short-term patch (jeer) or for offsetting the cost of a permanent overhaul of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that is used to determine Medicare reimbursement rates to physicians (cheer).
The bottom line: If the Senate passes the House bill today, as expected, it will be a win-win situation for AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition. The under-62 military retiree COLA cut for the current force will be repealed and a possible permanent solution to the SGR will be funded.
A big AUSA salute to all of you who responded quickly to our call to action and contacted your elected officials. It proves that grassroots efforts do work.
AUSA PRESIDENT: LEAVE DESIGN OF THE ARMY TO CIVILIAN AND MILITARY LEADERS
A piece of legislation AUSA does not support is a bill offered by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., that would create a congressional commission to study the structure of the Army to determine the proper force mixture of active component and reserve components.
Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., AUSA’s President and a former Chief of Staff of the Army strongly believes that such a commission is unnecessary. In a letter he sent to key members of Congress, Sullivan said that the commission “could damage Army readiness, and would be an impediment to the Army’s ability to implement the spending reductions required by the 2011 Budget Control Act.”
Sullivan also said that the “senior leaders of the Army components are best qualified to organize, train and equip a total force that will reflect the nation’s security needs and the Army’s role inherent in deterrence, meeting treaty obligations, supporting domestic crises and disaster relief and ultimately fighting and winning the nation’s conflicts.”
“I am confident that senior Army leaders – active, National Guard and reserve – will work together to carry out their responsibility to our nation’s civilian leaders to organize, train, and equip the Army for prompt and sustained combat on land. Protecting and defending our national interests and our nation is the goal. Leave the design of a coherent and balanced Army to the civilian and military leaders who have been confirmed by Congress. They can do the job, and ultimately, do it right,” Sullivan said.