MOAA's advocacy team is gearing up to protect your health care and retirement benefits, military pay, force levels, wounded warriors, and caregivers.
After an unpredictable 2017, the coming year likely will hold even more surprises on Capitol Hill. Midterm elections are coming in November, and the turnover in Congress could be significant. With partisanship on the rise, the political transition likely will pose interesting challenges.
Our uniformed servicemembers and their families have now endured 16 years of war. Overshadowing the challenges is the constant competition for fewer dollars, as budget caps dominate discussions at every level.
These growing budget pressures prompt efforts to erode service-earned benefits through reduced pay raises, significant changes to housing allowances, and increased health care fees. While MOAA has successfully deflected some of those challenges, we must remain vigilant. Of paramount concern is the proven impact these reductions have on retention and readiness. We're resolved to ensure any reduction to career incentives - essential to the all-volunteer force - is approached with great care.
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Action item: Ensure any TRICARE reform sustains access to top-quality care and avoids disproportional TRICARE fee increases.
Who is affected? All military beneficiaries, including active duty troops and retirees and their family members and others entitled to DoD's health care
The issue: Reforms to the Military Health System must sustain an operationally ready force with a ready medical force. MOAA strongly agrees the military's health care system needs to evolve beyond what it is today into a modern, high-performing, integrated system. However, this interdependent relationship between health care and the readiness-laden infrastructure must not lose sight of either imperative. The health care benefit is a commitment our nation makes to servicemembers and their families, military retirees, and survivors for their years of service. Any reform of TRICARE must take into account the decades of service that constitute a prepaid, in-kind premium worthy of a top-tier health benefit. Over 80 percent of those in Congress have not served in uniform and likely do not understand the toll service has on individuals and military families.
The remedy: Personal stories from constituents have a lot of impact on Capitol Hill. MOAA's members, councils, and chapters are a great source of grassroots support. Remind congressional legislators that any TRICARE reform not only must serve to strengthen the interdependent relationships between health care and readiness but also take into account that veterans prepaid for their health benefits through decades of service and sacrifice.
Action item: Sustain military pay comparability with the private sector.
Who is affected? All active duty currently serving uniformed personnel and their families
The issue: Budget pressures might tempt Congress to reduce military pay raises, widening the gap between military pay and civilian-sector pay and hurting recruiting and retention.
The remedy: We must work to ensure annual military pay raises approved by Congress remain tied to the Employment Cost Index.
Action item: Block erosion of compensation and non-pay and quality-of-life benefits.
Who is affected? All currently serving uniformed personnel and their family members
The issue: Future proposals likely will reduce the value of compensation, to include non-pay and quality-of-life benefits such as the Basic Allowance for Housing, Special Incentive Pays, and commissary, exchange, and morale, welfare, and recreation benefits, harming recruiting and retention.
Action item: Protect military retirement and COLAs.
Who is affected? All new entrants into military service after Jan. 1, as well as those with less than 12 years of active military service who choose to opt in to the new blended retirement system (BRS)
The issue: Budget constraints might lead to further reductions in the value of the military retirement benefit earned after 20 years of service.
The remedy: Extend the period of government matching funds beyond 26 years to actual retirement. Oppose any efforts to reduce or eliminate the mandatory 12-years-of-service bonus in the BRS. Continue to seek comprehensive implementation of legislation authorizing concurrent receipt of uniformed service retired pay and VA disability compensation, to include a heightened focus on Chapter 61 retirees (those medically retired with less than 20 years of service).
Action item: Sustain wounded warrior programs and expand caregiver support.
Who is affected? More than 52,000 servicemembers who were wounded in action, 1,000 battle-injured with major limb amputations, 327,000 traumatic brain injuries, and hundreds of thousands of individuals with service-connected conditions acquired since Sept. 11, 2001
The issue: While DoD, the VA, and the military services continue to maintain programs to care and support our most vulnerable servicemembers, MOAA has seen reductions in resources and funding for these programs.
The remedy: MOAA is committed to moving DoD and the VA to establish a more unified and integrated system of care and benefits that will provide comprehensive, wrap-around services to facilitate the health and well-being of the nation's wounded, ill, and injured. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Act of 2017, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), is one step in that direction.
Action item: End financial penalties to disabled servicemembers.
Who is affected? Veterans with service-connected injuries
The issue: Veterans forced into disability retirements before completing a full career (also known as Chapter 61 retirees) are prohibited from receiving military retired pay concurrently with VA disability compensation.
Action item: End financial penalties to survivors.
Who is affected? Military survivors
The issue: Military survivors whose sponsors died of service-connected causes suffer from the widows tax, a dollar-for-dollar offset of DoD's Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) from the VA's Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
Action item: Ensure the Guard and Reserve system adequately supports requirements for an operational reserve.
Who is affected? Members of the reserve components and their families
The issue: Members of the Guard and Reserve community have proven their mettle many times over during the past 16 years of armed conflict. Meanwhile, the paradigm for reserve component usage has changed from a strategic reserve to a combat-ready warfighting element incorporated into current and future war planning. As the demands on Guard and Reserve troops have evolved, so has the need for benefits comparable to their active duty counterparts.
The remedy: MOAA will continue to work with Congress to generate and support legislation strengthening legal protections for Guard and Reserve members in their civilian employment and in consumer contracts.
The issue: Recruiting and retention of an all-volunteer force require alignment of spouse and family support programs.
Who is affected? Every servicemember who has or will have a family
The issue: The decision to remain in service often is made around the kitchen table and considers the evolving needs of the entire family, including the employment, educational, and health care needs of non-serving family members; access to child care; and the frequency of relocations.
The remedy: Decrease the military spouse unemployment rate, which remains four to six times higher than the national rate. Increase the synergy between family support and health care systems, along with initiatives to address schools lacking appropriate resources to keep mobile military children on track.
Action item: Ensure timely access to VA health care and preserve veterans' earned benefits.
Who is affected? There are 21 million veterans in the U.S., with 6.7 million receiving care from the Veterans Health Administration.
The issue: The demand for VA health care and benefits continues to grow, even as the agency has received insufficient funding from Congress and faced frequent proposals for budget cuts.
The remedy: MOAA continues to press for VA health care and benefit system transformation, including investments in technology, financial systems, and infrastructure.