House Armed Services Committee members want to put a stop to a proposal to cut up to 18,000 medical billets – one of the many items addressed this week as they began work on the annual defense authorization bill.
Committee members also supported a 3.1 percent military pay raise. The increase would align with the administration’s FY 2020 budget request, released earlier this year. In April, the Senate Armed Services Committee also supported the 3.1 percent raise.
A 3.1 percent pay raise would be the largest increase in a decade. The raise matches the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which tracks private-sector wage growth. MOAA strongly believes sustaining pay comparability with the private sector is essential to long-term retention and readiness.
In April, MOAA members from around the country participated in our annual Storming the Hill event to hammer home the importance of the pay raise to servicemembers and their families.
Health Care Provisions
HASC lawmakers opposed DoD’s proposal to eliminate 18,000 medical billets. Committee members shared MOAA’s concerns about the potential consequences of cutting roughly 20 percent of the military’s medical force. They included language requiring DoD to study the issue further and report back to Congress.
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The committee also directed DoD to include information about blast exposure to servicemembers’ medical records. In addition, DoD would be required to include the location of exposure to any burn pits or other toxic exposures in its burn pit registry.
Lawmakers also tasked the secretary of defense to provide an annual report on military suicides.
In response to reports from multiple sources, including MOAA, outlining unsafe housing conditions on military installations, House lawmakers tasked DoD with creating a tenant bill of rights. The bill of rights would outline dispute-resolution guidelines for tenants and include protections for servicemembers from reprisal for complaining.
Additionally, the HASC included provisions to provide servicemembers a partial dislocation allowance if they are displaced from military family housing. The committee also directed DoD to create a process for identifying and resolving environmental hazards in military housing. while also requesting reports along the way.
The committee asked for a study from the Government Accountability Office on a proposal to merge the commissary and exchange systems. In March, MOAA and members of The Military Coalition sent a letter to Armed Services Committee leadership in both chambers asking for additional oversight after the services raised concerns about the proposal’s timelines and costs.
Generally speaking, the subcommittee marks are noncontroversial affairs. The subcommittees finished their work on the sprawling piece of legislation in under two hours. The real work begins June 12, when the bill’s provisions gets debated by the full committee.
The Senate plans to vote on its version of the defense bill the week of June 17.
Once the full House votes on its version, lawmakers from both chambers will work over the summer to resolve their differences in a compromise bill.