December 18, 2015
2015 saw the biggest changes to the military retirement system in a generation. While the changes largely will affect only new recruits in 2018 and later years, Congress approved a major overhaul to military retirement in this year's defense bill, cutting their future retired pay by 20 percent and asking them to help fund their own retirement via Thrift Savings Plan accounts.
2016 is already shaping up to be the year where every military beneficiary - past, present, and future - could see dramatic changes to their health care benefits.
Armed Services Committee leaders already tipped their hand in this year's Defense Authorization Act.
As the report language indicates, nothing about the current system will be sacrosanct when lawmakers examine TRICARE - and neither will your wallet.
Proposals earlier this year recommended scrapping TRICARE altogether, forcing beneficiaries into plans similar to those of federal civilians, imposing significantly higher fees, and means-testing TRICARE and TRICARE For Life (TFL) benefits so beneficiaries with higher incomes would pay even more. All of those and others could be on the table again in 2016.
The question is: Are you prepared to protect your and your families' interests?
MOAA members sent 420,000 emails to their elected officials in 2015. Your hard work helped avert even bigger military retirement cutbacks for future troops.
But now it's about you and yours.
Proponents of big TRICARE/TFL fee hikes are hoping you'll get tired of writing your elected officials and just accept the changes proposed by the Pentagon.
But if the answers you gave during MOAA's recent survey are correct, your priority is on fixing the access and other problems many are having with TRICARE, and defeating proposals for disproportional fee hikes.
If that's how you feel, we'll need you to be more active than ever on these issues in 2016.
Some who have an interest in deterring your messages to Congress will try to discourage you by saying your MOAA-recommended tear-out letters, postcards, and emails don't count much in legislators' minds.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We've seen from years of experience - and direct feedback from legislators and their staffs - that volume of correspondence counts. When legislators get tons of mail on a topic, the vast majority aren't going to ignore their constituents.
This isn't just a “defending our rice bowl” issue. Sustaining a top-tier health care benefit for career servicemembers and their families is essential to long-term retention and readiness.
We're going to be asking for a lot of activity from you in the months ahead. We hope you'll stand with us as we continue to stand for you - and that you'll ask your friends and relatives to get active, too.
National and state MOAA leaders will be Storming the Hill on health care and other issues in early April. Their office visits with legislators will be much more effective if legislators have received a barrage of constituent input.
Because of the coming holidays, this will be the final Legislative Update for 2015.
We wish you a happy - and safe and healthy - holiday season.
We'll need all hands back and energized to take on the big health care challenges coming in the new year.
Not a member of MOAA? When you join MOAA, you become part of the strongest advocate for our military's personnel and their families. The stronger our membership is, the stronger our voice becomes. Consider joining today because every voice counts.