Pay Raise, Military Medical Reform, and More: What’s at Stake as the NDAA Conference Nears

Pay Raise, Military Medical Reform, and More: What’s at Stake as the NDAA Conference Nears
Toni Smith/U.S. Geological Survey

MOAA and allied advocacy groups have the opportunity to halt planned reductions to the military health system, ensure a fair pay raise for those in uniform, and make many other significant improvements to your earned benefits via the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

 

The NDAA is one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding the service-earned pay and benefits for our uniformed services community. Last year, our advocacy efforts achieved repeal of the “widows tax” through the NDAA. This year, there are several critical issues MOAA is monitoring; The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of military and veterans service organizations representing a combined 5.5 million-plus membership that includes MOAA as a co-chair, wrote an Aug. 20 letter to Armed Service Committee leaders in both the House and Senate outlining 15 of those issues.

 

[READ THE TMC’S LETTER]

 

With both House and the Senate versions of the NDAA complete, the process now moves to a conference to create a compromise version. Legislators who make up the NDAA conference committee are drawn mainly from the House and Senate Armed Services committees. Once the NDAA is reported by the conference committee, the resulting conference report is subject to debate during floor consideration in both chambers.

 

Influence Your Elected Official

In this election year, your legislators can be influenced greatly by your emails, letters, and phone calls. The ongoing Summer Storm 2020, part of MOAA’s continued push to halt cuts to the military health system, remains the priority when it comes to congressional outreach.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Elected Official to Stop Cuts to Military Medicine]

 

It is also an opportunity to thank your elected officials where success has been achieved – areas where total or partial agreement between the House and Senate NDAA drafts should ensure passage of these provisions as part of the final bill. MOAA and The Military Coalition thank Congress for:

  • A Strong Military Pay Raise. Both the House and Senate have included a provision to provide a 3% raise for FY 2021. This success is heartening news to MOAA. We also remain alert for opportunities to engage Congress to restore the 2.6% accumulated losses from pay raises that lagged behind the Employment Cost Index between 2014 and 2016.

 

  • The New "Safe to Report" Provision. This sexual harassment and assault program has made it through to conference. This program protects servicemembers who make a report. MOAA also supports other measures in the NDAA that would improve accountability measures on sexual harassment and assault in the military.

 

  • Work to End the "180-Day Rule." The House and Senate each have provisions to repeal the 180-day “cooling off” waiting period required for recent retirees who apply for DoD civilian positions. The Senate NDAA version includes language authorizing a three-year, DoD-wide pilot program allowing military retirees to transition to DoD GS-13 and below positions directly after retirement. The House version repeals the rule for all depot-level positions. Learn more about the process here.

 

Make Your Voice Heard 

The future of these four key issues remains unclear, as proposals to address them were included in only one chamber’s NDAA draft. As the conference takes shape, it’s critical to engage your lawmakers – not just those on the committee, but all lawmakers – and seek their support for these fixes in the final bill:

  • Halt Medical Cuts. Sections 715 and 716 of the House NDAA (H.R. 6395) would provide the needed legislation to ensure both military treatment facility restructuring and proposed medical billet cuts allow for transparency, greater DoD reporting requirements, and congressional oversight. These provisions will take the needed steps to ensure any changes to military health care are in the best interests of the beneficiaries and promote military readiness as well.

 

[RELATED: Summer Storm 2020: A Key Goal Reached, But More Work Is Needed]

 

  • Preserve Commissaries and Exchanges. While MOAA acknowledges reform of DoD business operations to improve quality and achieve efficiencies is important, the Defense Resale System – together with MWR and other quality-of-life programs it supports – represents a vital and fragile ecosystem. Section 633 of the House NDAA draft would require DoD to update its Business Case Analysis to address the concerns raised by the Government Accountability Office regarding the DoD’s planned consolidation efforts.

 

  • Add Agent Orange Presumptives. Bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms meet the scientific threshold to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Section 1090B of the Senate NDAA version (S. 4049) would add these three “presumptives” to the federal list of conditions linked to Agent Orange, extending crucial care and benefits to tens of thousands of veterans.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Cover These Conditions Via the NDAA] 

 

  • Establish Fair Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP) for the Reserve Component. Both the active and reserve components maintain the same standards for specialty codes qualifying for HDIP. Reserve component members only receive 1/30th of the monthly HDIP when they perform duty. These members often perform more hazardous duty in a month than their active duty counterparts, who still get the full month of pay. Section 613 of the House NDAA version would address this disparity so those who meet the same standards will be paid at the same rate for hazardous duty.

 

Fight for Concurrent Receipt Continues

MOAA and The Military Coalition are disappointed that expansion of concurrent receipt was not included in either version of the NDAA. We will continue to pursue concurrent receipt improvements to ultimately ensure full military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for all disabled retirees. Contact your lawmaker to ask them to cosponsor incremental concurrent receipt legislation.

 

Now more than ever, your elected officials need to hear your voice. MOAA and the coalition's advocacy efforts need your support for the remainder of the NDAA process and into the 117th Congress.

 

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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as director, currently serving and retired affairs.