Legislative Update – 3 Oct 2014

Good Morning AFSA Chapter 1681,

What’s in this week’s Legislative Landscape: DoD indicates it will continue to come after compensation, retirement, healthcare programs. Know your target, when addressing a legislative issues and TRICARE no longer mailing out benefit updates. All this and more in your AFSA Legislative Update. Please take a few minutes to review these items and share them with your family, friends and potential AFSA members.

1. DoD Indicates It will Continue to Come After Compensation, Retirement, Healthcare Programs. As reported by Military.com, in reflecting the position of the Administration, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a Council on Foreign Relations forum that the Department of Defense will continue to urge Congress to lower spending on military compensation, housing allowances, military retirement, and military retiree healthcare. He noted that the matter will “come to a head” in February when the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission makes is recommendations on a long-term strategy for military personnel programs.

The article reports, “Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Tuesday that the Pentagon will continue pressing to trim military pay, pensions, and housing allowances despite rejections by Congress. The Pentagon will also try again to reform the Tricare health care system . . . despite nearly universal opposition from veterans’ service organizations.

“Work said he expected that Congress will still be working under a continuing resolution on DoD’s budget in February. ‘This is truly the last chance for us to make any moves in this space’ on pay, pensions and other cost-cutting measures, said Work, a retired Marine colonel and former Navy undersecretary. . .”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/30/pentagon-promises-to-try-to-cut-pay-and-benefits-again.html

2. Know your Target. When addressing a legislative issue, AFSA Director of Military and Government Relations Morgan Brown will often say that it is important to “Know your target.”

Often, people make assumptions about sources of support on particular issues. For example, when discussing military pay raises, I hear repeatedly, “Why doesn’t Congress cut its own pay; why do they keep trying to cut our pay raises?”

However, the fact of the matter is that Congress has not proposed cutting military pay. Each such proposal has come from the President of the United States in his budget submission. Last year, President Obama proposed reducing the 2014 military pay raise

from the 1.8 percent, called for by law, to 1.0 percent. At the last minute, Congress went along with that. Once again, the President is calling for a 45 percent reduction of the 2015 military pay raise, from 1.8 to 1.0 percent–and he wants to program military pay raise cuts into the future. You can validate this by looking at his FY 2015 Budget Plan (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget).

Congressional support for the President’s proposals almost always follows political party lines—but not always. That is where our legislative team comes in—working hard to convince Congress to protect the interests of service members and to protect the benefits they have worked so hard to achieve.

So, one of the great benefits of having a professional legislative team in Washington is that they know the targets, they know who to work to convince, they know where to focus Association efforts. At this time, for example, our team is working hard to protect military compensation, housing allowances, military retirement, military health care, and a host of other programs by exerting leverage at the right pivot points.

As those at the chapter and division levels deal with such matters, and address questions on legislative strategies, any questions or confusion on “Knowing your target” can be clarified by contacting AFSA Headquarters and its legislative team at staff@hqafsa.org or by calling (800) 638-0594

3. TRICARE No Longer Mailing Out Benefit Updates. A TRICARE news release reported yesterday, “TRICARE beneficiaries need to watch their email and ensure they have a milConnect account to receive information about changes to their TRICARE coverage. The Department of Defense is no longer sending paper letters to notify beneficiaries about changes to their coverage and eligibility status. Beneficiaries will now receive emails or post cards directing them to online resources where they can view their information.

“When you have correspondence from TRICARE, you’ll get it one of two ways.  If you have a valid email address in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), you’ll get an email telling you to go milConnect to read your letter. If you don’t have an email address in DEERS, you’ll get a post card directing you to milConnect. The emails and post cards won’t contain private information, only a short generic message to inform you of a change to your coverage or eligibility. . . .”

To read more, go to: http://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/10_01_14_NoMoreLetters.aspx

4. Military Health System Study (August). In citing a recent review of the military health system (MHS), Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that while the system was as good as the average civilian healthcare system that is not good enough. He wants to make the military system better than it is. Therefore, he directed Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to report back in 45 days with an action plan to make that happen. The review upon which the Secretary’s comments were made and its recommendations (see Appendix 6.1, for a full list of recommendations) can be viewed at:   http://www.defense.gov/pubs/140930_MHS_Review_Final_Report_Main_Body.pdf

5. Veterans Leaving First Post-Military Jobs. According to a Military Times article, once a member leaves the military and secures a first civilian job, the majority of these veterans don’t stay in that job very long. The article reports, “Roughly two-thirds of veterans are likely to leave their first post-military job within two years because of problems like low job satisfaction and limited opportunities for advancement, according to a new survey by employment specialists.

“The report from VetAdvisor and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families confirms concerns from many veterans’ groups that post-military employment problems don’t end when troops land their first civilian job. According to the research, roughly 44 percent of veterans who responded to the survey left their first civilian job within a year of employment. Another 21 percent left after one to two years on the job. . .

“Officers were more likely than enlisted troops to stay in their first post-military position, but more than half of officers also had moved on within two years, according to the survey, which included responses from nearly 1,500 veterans earlier this year. . .”

To read the complete Times article, go to: http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20141001/JOBS/310010058/Survey-65-vets-likely-leave-1st-civilian-job-within-2-years

To read the full report, go to: http://myvetadvisor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/VetAdvisor-Job_Retention_Report.pdf

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