AUSA + 2nd Session, 112th Congress = Some Very Good News

January 7, 2013

American Soldiers continue their service to the nation and remain its strength for the future. As the United States fights against extremist movements and readies for contingencies, landpower (in particular, the Army) 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.

Separate from the “fiscal cliff” legislation and the sequestration battles, the Second Session of the 112th Congress tailored defense authorizations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 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 and pharmacy copays in future years will be modest and tied to military retirees’ cost-of-living increases. For now, Congress has preserved the current military retirement system—vital for sustainable force retention and recruitment—while ordering a study to determine if there are viable alternatives. It also voted to continue Impact Aid funding for schools with military populations, albeit in a smaller amount.

However, some important proposals were not included in the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Act. 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 and the Ground Combat Vehicle, 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 December 2013. 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