AFSA Chapter 1681 Legislative Update – 3 Dec 2014

  1. AFSA CEO: NDAA Actions Reopen Pay Gap. In the aftermath of the announcement of a House-Senate decision on the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), AFSA immediately issued a statement that focused on the inequities of some of the decisions made by House-Senate negotiators. AFSA CEO Rob Frank pointed out how this bill would reopen a military civilian pay gap that had intentionally and properly closed by previous Congresses; that congressional action was taken to ensure effective recruiting and retention in our all-volunteer force. The AFSA statement reads, in part, “‘In very short order, the administration has re-opened the wound of a pay gap,’ said Frank. He pointed to last year’s pay raise, which was .7 percent less than ECI, coupled with .8 percent less this year as evidence of a reverse in past efforts to allow military pay to keep pace with the ECI.

“‘It took over a decade to suture the 13.5 percent pay differential and now we have a de facto 1.5 percent reduction in pay in just two years,’ he added. ‘Couple that with reductions in housing and the cumulative impact becomes immediately negative for those serving on the heels of extended combat. We are ‘nickel and diming’ the troops, and treating them like an expense ripe for the trimming. Our military members are not an expense, rather an investment that we need to properly cultivate,’ he said.”

To read the complete Statement, go to:   http://www.hqafsa.org/uploads/3/8/9/1/38911523/news_release_template_ndaa_report.pdf

  1. More on FY 2015 NDAA Agreement. An article in the Military Times reports more details about the compromise FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. It pointed out, “All of the pay and benefits trims were backed by the Pentagon and White House in an effort to slow the growth of personnel costs. The housing cuts and pharmacy co-pays were the final sticking points for lawmakers, with a compromise reached after nearly a month of behind-the-scenes fights.” The article indicated the bill contains the following:
  • A 1.0 percent pay raise as requested by the Administration, rather than the 1.8 percent called for by current law (that parallels private sector wage growth). The article points out “For an E-3 with three years of service, the lower raise is a loss of about $195 a year. For an E-7 with 10 years, it comes out to $356. For an O-5 with 12 years of service, it’s $667 in annual salary.”
  • A cap on any growth in BAH to 1 percent below inflation. “Pentagon budget officials had asked for a 5 percent reduction in housing allowance growth over five years. The new deal allows only a 1 percent reduction for one year, pushing future decisions off for now.” Note: This effectively creates another pay cut, with service members and their families now having to fund an additional 1 percent of their housing costs.
  • A $3 increase in the cost of TRICARE prescriptions, except for mail-order generic drugs. Note: The Administration had proposed doubling or tripling these costs for service members and their families.
  • Protection of the commissary subsidy.
  • Denial of the Administration request to massively restructure “the Tricare system in an effort to free up even more money for training and modernization accounts.”
  • “. . . a host of new protections for military sexual assault victims, but no plans for divorcing those cases entirely from the military justice system as some advocates have wanted.”

“But House and Senate officials said they opposed making any longer-term decisions on pay and benefits until after the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission offers its comprehensive review in February.”

To read the full Times article, go to: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/pay/allowances/2014/12/02/ndaa-deal-pay-raise/19784183/

Here is the House Armed Services Committee summary of the compromise bill: http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=F477F464-90AE-4B7A-AD7A-438065807D04

To read the actual bill text, go to: http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20141201/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-S1847.pdf

  1. Renewed Push to Eliminate Chain of Command from Military Sexual Assault Cases. A Reuters article reports, “A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday renewed a push to overhaul the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, and the effort’s main sponsor said she might block President Barack Obama’s nominee as secretary of Defense over the issue.

 

“Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been working for much of the past two years for the military to shift authority for prosecuting sexual assault cases to an independent prosecutor instead of top commanders, prompted by a sharp increase in reports of such crimes.”

 

To read more, go to: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/02/us-usa-defense-sexcrimes-idUSKCN0JG22P20141202

Note: Yesterday, Senator Gillibrand introduced S. 2970 which would “reform procedures for determinations to proceed to trial by court-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” She has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to allow this as an amendment to the compromise NDAA or to allow a full floor vote on the bill. Sen. Reid has not yet responded to the request.

  1. Military Families Fight for Best Autism Care. We periodically publish articles on AFSA’s efforts to ensure that military dependents with autism spectrum disorders are properly and effectively treated. A recent article by Kearny Hub provides a little more insight: “‘Before ABA [Applied Behavior Analysis], he [her son] could never survive a school situation,’ Stephanie Parks said. ‘Now I’ve got a totally functioning kid.’

 

“Autism care is intensive, and it’s expensive, costing $60,000 a year or more. Until recently, parents had to dig into their own pockets to pay for what they considered to be essential care. Few insurers — military or civilian — paid for ABA treatment because it was considered experimental, or because it was classified as educational rather than medical. That trend is changing. Thirty-eight states now require insurers to cover behavioral health treatments such as ABA.

 

“The Pentagon has been wrestling with this issue as well. The military’s medical provider, Tricare, provides treatment for more than 9,000 autistic children of service members and military retirees. In 2013, that cost $132 million.

 

“But there was an outcry earlier this fall when Tricare proposed changes in autism coverage. Officials said they were trying to improve and simplify a patchwork of programs that covered some families but left others to pay for their own care. But the proposed changes alarmed military parents, causing the Pentagon to quickly revise its plan. Even so, military families remain concerned.”

 

To read the complete article, go to: http://www.kearneyhub.com/news/regional/military-families-fight-for-best-autism-care-after-insurer-proposes/article_dbe319ec-7a2f-11e4-9960-3b8493df1ac6.html

 

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