16 April 2015 Legislative News Update

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Thursday, April 16, 2015

weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Thursday when Congress is in session.







NO MORE DOC FIX  We won’t have the “doc fix” to talk about anymore because by a vote of 92-8, the Senate cleared legislation that would change the formula the government uses to pay physicians who treat Medicare/TRICARE beneficiaries. 

The $210 billion plan passed the House last month by a vote of 392-37.

The legislation repeals the old Medicare payment formula, called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR).  Under the SGR, physicians faced a 21 percent pay cut. 

Mary Agnes Carey writing for Kaiser Health News provides the details about what this legislation means for you. 

What’s next:  The bill will now go to the president who has indicated his willingness to sign it into law.

MILCON-VA BILL ADVANCES The House Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee approved a $7.7 billion draft military construction bill for fiscal year 2016, which would be a $904 million increase over 2015 spending but $775 million less than requested by the Obama administration.

The bill allocates $512 million for Guard and Reserve units, including $167.4 million for Army National Guard construction and $104.3 million for Army Reserve projects.  There is $663.2 million set aside for Army construction and alteration projects.

Family housing is covered in a different category in the bill.  There is $1.4 billion for the construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing in the bill, an amount similar to what the Obama administration requested and a $223 million increase over 2015.

For the Army, there is $99.7 million for construction, replacement and major renovation of family housing.  The bill includes $393.5 million for the operation and maintenance of Army family housing.

Construction funds are part of a $76.6 billion measure that also funds the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

That part of the bill basically keeps the VA’s major construction budget flat by providing $562 million, equal to the fiscal 2015 level.  

Subcommittee Chairman Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said that it was done partly in response to incidents of “gross mismanagement” by the department.  He cited a Denver hospital project that has run nearly $1 billion over budget. 

What’s next:  The legislation is set to be marked up next week by the full Appropriations Committee. 

AUSA’S MESSAGE TO LAWMAKERS  As the House Armed Services Committee starts marking up its version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill next week, there are several things AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., wants them to know.

“Our Soldiers and their Families remain our most critical resource.  However, trends are developing which do not support that message such as an emerging pay gap, more out-of-pocket housing expenses that are being contemplated, increased TRICARE copays which are under consideration, and tightening of education benefits.

“Troops are told that “the war is over” and “no boots on the ground,” yet they find themselves getting ready to deploy once again (Eastern Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, West Africa).

“In addition to this, the recently released report by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission has proposed some very drastic changes to pay and benefits.  This has increased anxiety in the force as the impact on the family pocketbook becomes real.  

“Let me be clear on this - AUSA will NOT support any reforms that devalue the compensation and benefits needed to sustain the All-Volunteer Force and the recruiting and retention needed to maintain our warfighting readiness.  This is non-negotiable.

“We need to do more to reassure our troops and their families.  We must show our Soldiers that we value their service and sacrifice by giving them the pay and allowances they have earned under the law.

“At the end of the day, the objective is to preserve the All-Volunteer Force and to ensure its viability.”