Armed Services Committees Differ On Pay, Spending Levels

June 30, 2017

On June 28, the House and Senate Armed Services committees (HASC and SASC) approved their respective versions of the FY 2018 defense authorization bill. The moves come shortly before lawmakers return to their home districts for the Fourth of July recess. 

It's unusual for both committees to pass their bills at the same time. 

630 Update 1 2017

While TRICARE For Life (TFL) beneficiaries are protected from new fees, active duty servicemembers and retirees under age 65 may see big increases in their health care costs. 

In a win for military families, the HASC  bill included an amendment to ease some of the burdens on families imposed by permanent change of station (PCS) moves. The provision, originally sponsored by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y), allows families to move up to six months before or after a servicemember is scheduled to report to their next installation. This can give families extra flexibility around work or school arrangements.

HASC Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) also included a provision in this year's House bill expressing a sense of Congress about the financial penalties faced by military survivors.

630 Update 2 2017

Earlier this year, Thornberry sent a letter to the House Budget Committee asking for more money to eliminate the offset that reduces a surviving spouse's Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity by whatever Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) they receive. MOAA applauds him for his hard work.

During the hearing, Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) introduced, and later withdrew, an amendment to continue the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA). The well-intentioned, but misguided, proposal would extend SSIA beyond its current expiration in May 2018 by increasing pharmacy fees for all beneficiaries.

Thornberry offered Davis assurances the committee would address the issue in conference negotiations with the Senate. 

The Senate version of the defense bill contains a similar provision to fund an extension of the allowance.

MOAA believes this is the wrong approach, because it penalizes all TRICARE beneficiaries and forces survivors to pay for their own benefit.

MOAA hopes Congress finds a better way to address this penalty. 

What's Next

The committees are operating under a condensed timeline due to the late arrival of the new administration's budget. 

When lawmakers return to Washington, they will have only 25 working days to reach an agreement on all the differences between the two bills. 

In conversations with staffers on Capitol Hill, the House is expected to vote on its version of the defense bill as soon as July 14. 

That means there will be little time to influence lawmakers on important defense proposals, introduce critical amendments, and send the legislation to the president before the start of the new fiscal year. 

 

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