Bipartisan NDAA Draft Reflects Key MOAA Priorities

Bipartisan NDAA Draft Reflects Key MOAA Priorities
Servicemembers would receive a 4.6% pay raise as part of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. (Photo by Lance Cpl. David Intriago/Marine Corps)

(Updated Dec. 8 with House vote)


By MOAA Government Relations Staff


The FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) took a significant step toward passage Dec. 6 when House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders released draft legislation agreed upon by members of both parties – a bill which addresses several critical MOAA priorities.


The House passed the legislation 350-80 on Dec. 8, clearing a two-thirds threshold required for the bill to pass under the suspension of chamber rules (a move allowing for less debate and eliminating floor amendments, among other changes from normal procedure). The Senate likely will take up the measure next week. The 4,400-page document pulls primarily from the House NDAA version passed by that chamber in July and a version passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in June.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Senators to Pass the NDAA Before the Close of the 117th Congress]


Here are some key provisions included in the must-pass legislation:


Compensation and Service-Earned Benefits

Pay Raise: Servicemembers will receive a 4.6% pay raise starting Jan. 1, 2023. The raise matches the Employment Cost Index from October 2021, as required by law; Congress took no action to adjust the pay levels.


[RELATED: Here’s Why the 2024 Military Pay Raise Should Be the Largest in Decades]


Recruiting and Retention Bonuses: Extending bonus authorities is critical as DoD faces a challenging recruiting environment. To ensure DoD remains competitive, many categories of bonuses are seeing increases between $15,000 and $25,000. 


Alaska Travel Allowance: Given the alarming increase in suicides in Alaska, Congress has taken a special interest in the quality of life for those serving there. As part of efforts to help these servicemembers, Congress is requiring DoD to create a program to reimburse travel costs for those in uniform to return to their home of record.


Pay Reports: In addition to these pay changes, Congress is requiring several studies focused on basic pay, the accuracy of the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH), and the dislocation allowance rate. These items could be included in the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation, but the language for these provisions show Congress is keeping a very close eye on these issues and wants the information before that report is due.


Military Housing

BAH Adjustment Authority: Congress would authorize the secretary of defense to prescribe temporary adjustments to BAH for military housing areas in which average housing costs exceed current BAH rates by more than 20 percent – a critical benefit as military families continue to face challenges finding affordable housing.


BAH Continuation: If a servicemember’s sole dependent passes away, the servicemember will continue to receive the BAH with dependents rate for up to one year.


BAH Home Port Changes: If a servicemember has no dependents and faces a home port change that would disadvantage the member financially, the secretary of defense can authorize BAH based on either the member’s previous home port or permanent duty station.


Health Care for Currently Serving and Retirees

Pausing Billet Cuts: The FY 2023 NDAA includes a five-year halt to medical billet cuts (an extension of the three-year halt proposed in the House version), with the addition of a one-year suspension of military treatment facility restructuring.


Better Referral Process: A change would allow families to receive TRICARE Prime specialty care referrals for their new location prior to a PCS move.


[RELATED: Much-Needed Reform Would Benefit Special Needs Families on the Move]


National Guard Health Care: Eligibility for transitional health care benefits would expand to members of the National Guard following required training or other duty to respond to a national emergency.


Service Families

Basic Needs Allowance (BNA): The BNA, included in the FY 2022 NDAA, is designed to provide financial support to military families facing food insecurity. A provision in the FY 2023 NDAA increases the threshold from 130% to 150% of the federal poverty guideline based on household size and authorizes the secretary of defense to increase the threshold up to 200% when deemed appropriate.


CDCs and Special Needs: A pilot program would provide special needs inclusion coordinators at child development centers (CDCs) with higher numbers of Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) enrollees. These coordinators will help establish intervention and inclusion services, provide direct classroom support, and provide guidance and assistance relating to the increased complexity of working with the behaviors of children with special needs.


[RELATED: Advisory Council Members Offer Tips for PCSing With Special Needs Children]


Child Care Cost Reimbursement: Another pilot program would reimburse servicemembers for certain child care costs incident to a PCS or permanent change of assignment (PCA) – if child care is unavailable at a CDC within 30 days of a PCS or PCA, this program will authorize reimbursement of travel expenses for a designated child care provider. Reimbursement limits for CONUS and OCONUS moves are $500 and $1,500, respectively.



Survivor Benefit Plan Open Season: The FY 2023 NDAA authorizes an open season for eligible military retirees to opt in or out of the Survivor Benefit Plan. The open season would run from the enactment of the NDAA through Jan. 1, 2024.


Guard and Reserve

Backdating National Guard Officer Promotions: The bill requires the backdating the effective date of Army and Air Guard officers whose promotion is delayed over 100 days, due to no fault of their own. The promotion date for promotions between enactment of the NDAA and Jan. 1, 2024, would be at the discretion of the Army and Air Force secretaries, but promotions after Jan. 1, 2024, will be later of two possible dates: The date that National Guard Bureau deems the officer’s application for federal recognition completely submitted, or the date on which the officer occupies a billet in the next higher grade.


Report on Federal Recognition: In addition to improving National Guard officer promotions, the NDAA requires the DoD contract an independent report on how to improve processing of Federal Recognition until the delay is less than 90 days.


[RELATED: MOAA Joins Other Veterans Groups Seeking GI Bill Parity for Guard, Reserve]


What's Next

The DoD vaccine mandate was a part of the NDAA discussion and an area of resistance for many lawmakers. While MOAA has been deferential to the secretary of defense on this topic, we recognize Congress is also weighing the benefits and costs of such a decision on the health of the force. As part of the NDAA deal, Congress decided to rescind the vaccine mandate, which should help to ensure the bill does not stall.


Time is limited between now and the end of the year. In addition to passing the NDAA, Congress must also avoid a government shutdown and seek to pass appropriations before the end of the year. Ask your senators to pass the NDAA before they go home this year.


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