As most regular readers of our MOAA Career Networking Group's weekly career building content are aware, we are first and foremost a non-partisan advocacy organization focused on protecting the earned pay and benefits of currently serving, veterans and the extended military family. Accordingly, MOAA's government relations team spent 2014 educating and informing members of Congress on the unique aspects of military service and defending key pay and benefits in order to ensure the continued viability of the All-volunteer Force and appropriate recognition for military families who have shouldered the burden of more than 13 years of combat operations.
With the recent passage by Congress and signing by the President of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, I'd like to recap some of the wins and frustrations and also provide a peek at what we expect will be driving our advocacy agenda for 2015.
- Both Houses of Congress rejected proposals to consolidate the Tricare Program, which would have included means testing and new or increased fees to access the Tricare system.
- Also in the medical benefits area, Congress imposed a $3.00 increase in pharmacy co-pays. Additionally, Congress authorized expansion of the mail-order pharmacy requirement to include the maintenance medications of all military retirees, except for prescriptions filled at a military treatment facility, beginning on October 1, 2015.
- Appropriated funding for the existing military commissary system was largely preserved, with both houses of Congress rejecting major decreases in commissary funding.
- Congress approved multi-year funding for mandatory veterans benefit programs, ensuring the delivery of benefits and services will not be interrupted in the event of an unexpected government shut-down.
- Congress also expanded the Special Needs Trust feature of the Survivor Benefit Plan, thereby ensuring that adult children of SBP recipients, with special needs, are able to shield SBP survivor annuity income from state taxation.
- With strong support from the House of Representatives, we were able to blunt the proposed five percent reduction in average housing costs covered by Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for currently serving military. Instead, a one percent reduction in covered housing costs will be implemented in 2016.
- And regrettably, currently serving military will not receive the full 1.8 percent pay raise in 2015 established by the Employee Cost Index and designed to maintain military pay comparability with private sector wages. Alternatively, a one percent raise will take effect on January 1, 2016. (See the 2015 Military Pay Charts)
# # # #In 2015, look to MOAA to relentlessly defend earned pay and benefits before Congress and the executive branch. Moreover, with many competing fiscal priorities affecting the budget process, your voice in support of our advocacy efforts has never been more important. Make it your first New Year's resolution to go to www.moaa.org/join and add your voice to our 390,000 members working to protect the All-volunteer Force and maintain a strong national defense. Looking ahead to 2015, we expect continuing efforts by the Administration and some members of Congress to degrade earned military pay and benefits. In addition, the February 1 report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission may signal renewed efforts to reduce earned compensation and healthcare benefits for the military and veteran communities.