This is MOAA’s LEGISLATIVE UPDATE for Friday, December 16, 2011
Compliments of Mike “ Gunner” Furgal,
Consider Yourself Warned
Despite worries about budget-cutting proposals from last year’s Deficit Commission and this year’s Super Committee, many think we’ve dodged a bullet, with no major cuts enacted yet.
In his December “As I See It” column, MOAA Government Relations Director Colonel Steve Strobridge says the cuts are on the way, and we’ll know the specifics soon.
More ominously, he’s worried that one of the major threats to military benefits next year may not come from the Administration or Congress.
Your Healthcare at Risk. Having left rafts of major legislation until the last few days of the year, fixing the 27% Medicare/TRICARE cut has fallen down their priority list. Please join MOAA in insisting legislators finish this essential task before they quit for the year.
Defense Bill Passed. The House and Senate have passed the final FY2012 Defense Authorization Act this week, and it will be signed into law shortly. What’s in it?
Shutdown Threat Easing? A late deal appears to have averted a government shutdown as Hill leaders compromised on legislation to keep the government funded through the rest of the fiscal year.
Quick Whacks? A new bill would require an expedited, up-or-down vote on any bipartisan legislation that would reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion.
Your Healthcare at Risk
After delaying almost all of its essential work until the last two weeks of the year, Congress has scrambled to pass a defense bill, pass annual appropriations, and extend unemployment benefits.
But fixing the biggest threat to your family’s healthcare access – stopping the January 1, 27% cut in Medicare and TRICARE payments to doctors – seems to have slipped down on legislators’ priority list.
This is a huge deal.
Everyone in Congress wants to stop the cuts, but they’re still bickering over how to pay for it, and how long they can afford to delay the cut.
The Republican House-passed payroll tax extension bill included a two year fix, but Democrats opposed to offsets to pay for the bill, which included an even lengthier freeze of federal workers’ pay, among other things.
With time running short, it’s time to send your legislators a MOAA-suggested message asking them to work across party lines and reach a quick agreement to avoid a 27 percent cut that would devastate military and Medicare beneficiaries’ access to health services.
Defense Bill Passed
Early this week, House and Senate leaders worked out an agreement on the FY2012 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540). By Thursday, both the House and Senate had passed the compromise version, and
it’s expected to be signed by the President as soon as this weekend.
Among other provisions, the legislation would:
Authorize a 1.6% military pay raise Limit the percentage increase in TRICARE Prime enrollment fee in
any year to the percentage growth in military retired pay Enhance authority to call up the Reserves for certain missions Authorize early retirement and voluntary separation incentives to reduce the need for involuntary separations during the coming force reductions Bar denial of reenlistment based on a medical condition that a medical board has evaluated and deemed as not disqualifying for continued duty
Establish the Chief of the National Guard Bureau as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Provide $45M in assistance for civilian schools in which military dependents are enrolled Enhance the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program for wounded warriors and their families Safeguard reemployment rights for Guard members ordered to full-time duty under state orders Authorize a death gratuity and related benefits for Reserves who die during an authorized stay at their residence during or between successive days of inactive duty training Require GAO to review effectiveness of programs aimed at promoting military spouse employment Require GAO to review effects of extending space-available travel eligibility to certain survivors and gray area reserve retirees Require a DoD report on the cost of expanding the Homeowner Assistance Program to help more servicemembers who are “upside-down” on their mortgages
Unfortunately, the final legislation did not retain the Senate-passed provision to eliminate deduction of VA survivor benefits from military Survivor Benefit Plan annuities.
Shutdown Threat Easing?
As of Friday morning, Hill leaders indicated they had broken a deadlock and struck a deal on a $1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill (including defense funding), thus avoiding a federal government shutdown.
With anxiety mounting earlier this week as the latest temporary funding extension was set to expire at midnight tonight, federal agencies started notifying employees on the possibility of a “shutdown” and its potential impact to their commute on Monday.
The omnibus measure reportedly includes funding of the federal government for the remainder of FY2012 and is expected to clear both chambers and be sent to the White House today.
A bill introduced in the Senate this week (S. 1985) would extend expedited consideration privileges to legislation that:
(a) Is cosponsored by any bipartisan group of 6 Democratic and 6 Republican senators (or 15 Democrat and 15 Republican representatives) and
(b) Would reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
“Expedited consideration” means it would be treated in the same way as base closure legislation. There would be only limited debate, and would have to have an up-or-down vote, without any amendments.
There’s no doubt Congress needs to work in a bipartisan fashion to control our nation’s exploding debt, but MOAA strongly disagrees with using the BRAC-style process to rush through such massively important legislation without allowing for substantive debate and reasonable amendments.
In effect, this legislation would grant huge power to relatively small groups of legislators who happened to agree on a plan to gore someone else’s oxen.
Budget-cutting decisions certainly aren’t easy, but they’re a fundamental responsibility of Congress. Deferring decision-making to automatic triggers (sequestration) or small groups of likeminded legislators is an abdication of that responsibility in MOAA’s view.
MOAA – Military Officers Association of America
201 N. Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314