AUSA + 1st Session, 112th Congress = Some Good News

January 1, 2012

American Soldiers remain the strength of the nation. As the United States fights against extremist movements and readies for contingencies, Soldiers will remain the critical, strategic element of national defense strategy for the foreseeable future—America’s force of decisive action, ready to execute unified land operations alongside joint, multinational and interagency partners.

To comply with the terms of the 2011 Budget Control Act, the First Session of the 112th Congress trimmed defense authorizations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 to address budgetary necessities. Congress provided sufficient personnel for the Army to respond to the demands of the nation’s security and authorized a military pay raise that keeps pace with inflation. Fee increases for TRICARE Prime access in future years will be modest and tied to military retirees’ cost-of-living increases. For now, Congress preserved the current military retirement system that is vital for sustainable force retention and recruitment. It also voted to sustain and increase Impact Aid funding for schools with military populations.

Although AUSA supported these and other provisions of the FY 2012 Defense Authorization Act, some important proposals were not authorized. Congress has not ruled out the possibility of converting the TRICARE pharmacy flat copay system to a percentage copay system, a change that could create substantial new out-ofpocket costs for many military families and retirees. Neither the phaseout of the disability offset to retired pay for medically retired servicemembers nor a proposed repeal of the deduction of VA survivor benefits from military Survivor Benefit Plan annuities was included. Although Congress authorized critical funding for such modernization initiatives as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Ground Combat Vehicle and network integration, significant work remains to be done. Progress has been made in the availability of quality housing for military families, but single Soldier housing continues to be an issue. In separate deliberation, Congress postponed the scheduled 27 percent Medicare-reimbursement rate reduction for doctors—but only through February 2012. This continues to be a serious access issue for military retirees and their families and adds to existing uncertainty in the military health care system.

Congress must support the Army’s effort to balance endstrength, modernization and readiness. Each member of AUSA is a Torchbearer, carrying the message to our elected representatives and to the American public. Some of the major objectives achieved during the last legislative session are listed below. Sustaining and improving upon these accomplishments will require continued diligent effort from all of us.