Stopping Military Medical Cuts: What the NDAA Means for MOAA’s Ongoing Fight

Stopping Military Medical Cuts: What the NDAA Means for MOAA’s Ongoing Fight
A medical-surgical nurse assigned to the 627th Hospital Center checks the records of a COVID-positive patient during a 12-hour night shift in support of the COVID-19 response operations at Kootenai Health regional medical center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Sept. 10, 2021. (Photo by Sgt. Kaden D. Pitt/Army)

With the passage of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law Dec. 27, MOAA was once again successful in halting proposed medical billet cuts and achieving more robust congressional oversight of the plan to downsize the military health system (MHS). MOAA’s goal is to ensure continued access to quality care for servicemembers, retirees, their families, and survivors who rely on the MHS for their medical care needs.


The FY 2022 NDAA includes a provision (Section 731) halting medical billet cuts for one year from the date of the bill’s passage. It also requires a report from the Comptroller General of the United States on the analyses used to support any reduction or realignment of military medical manning.


The provision also requires a report on DoD compliance with the congressional halt to medical billet cuts -- by Sept. 30, 2022, DoD must report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees an accounting of the number of uniformed personnel and civilian personnel assigned to a military treatment facility (MTF) as of Oct. 1, 2019, and a comparable accounting as of Sept. 30, 2022. If the number in 2022 is less than the number in 2019, DoD must provide a full explanation for the reduction.


MOAA’s work on this issue last year included an analysis of DoD’s Section 719 report to Congress and the development of a letter from The Military Coalition outlining concerns about DoD’s mitigation plans for eliminated medical positions that could lead to decrements in beneficiary access and operational requirements.


[RELATED: Here’s How the FY 2022 NDAA Addresses Mental Health Care for Military Families]


We also continued to raise the issue with DoD leadership throughout 2021, including in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to protect the MHS from proposals threatening the military health care benefit, medical readiness, and the pipeline of uniformed health care providers.


MOAA does not oppose military health system reforms aimed at achieving efficiencies and enhancing the focus on readiness, but all plans must ensure the MHS can fulfill operational requirements and beneficiary access to quality health care.


We appreciate Congress responded to our concerns with the NDAA provision and thank Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) for his efforts on the medical billets issue. After hearing reports of staffing reductions at Naval Hospital Bremerton in his district, Kilmer raised concerns at two congressional hearings last year. His staff continued to work the issue throughout the NDAA process, following up with MOAA and other advocacy organizations as well as the local MOAA chapter in his district to learn more about MTF-level impacts.


The latest wave of uniformed medical personnel deployments to support civilian hospitals with the COVID-19 response provides a vivid reminder of the need for surge capacity within the military health system. Medical billet cuts will continue to be a top priority for MOAA for the remainder of the 117th Congress. Stay tuned to The MOAA Newsletter and our new Legislative Action Center for all the latest news and details on how you can help.


Have More Questions About Your Health Care Benefit?

MOAA's TRICARE Guide answers some commonly asked questions.


About the Author

Karen Ruedisueli
Karen Ruedisueli

Ruedisueli is MOAA’s Director of Government Relations for Health Affairs and also serves as co-chair of The Military Coalition’s (TMC) Health Care Committee. She spent six years with the National Military Family Association, advocating for families of the uniformed services with a focus on health care and military caregivers.