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Zack Wheat American Legion Post 624

Sunrise Beach, Mo......Lake of the Ozarks

What's Your Greatest Concern?

Captain Morton,

There's no shortage of things for members of the military community to worry about as we look forward to more political, international, and fiscal turmoil for the rest of the year and beyond.

But MOAA would like your input on what concerns you MOST as you look down the road for the next six to twelve months. Take MOAA's one question survey and let us know.

Take Action

June 29, 2012

In This Issue                                                                               

White House Bashes TRICARE Fix

A new statement of Administration policy threatens a presidential veto of the FY2013 Defense Appropriations Act for, among other things, not adopting the Administration's huge proposed TRICARE fee hikes.

The Supreme Court and You

What implications will Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decisions have for the military community?

Homeowner Relief in Sight

Two key MOAA-supported bills that provide additional relief for military homeowners received Pentagon backing last week.

Veterans Bills on the Move

The Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees were busy this week on a range of VA health care and benefits matters.

White House Bashes TRICARE Fix

The Office of Management and Budget has issued a "statement of Administration policy" threatening to veto the FY2013 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 5856) approved by the House Appropriations Committee for being out of line with the Administration's defense budget proposals.

Among other complaints, it says, "The Administration is disappointed that the Congress did not incorporate the requested TRICARE fee initiatives into either the appropriation or authorization legislation. The Administration asks the House to reconsider the TRICARE fee proposals, which are essential for DOD to successfully address rising personnel costs. The $1.8 billion in savings are part of a carefully balanced FY 2013 Budget request."

MOAA and House leaders, on the other hand, are disappointed that the Administration still insists that career service families who have sacrificed more for their country than any other Americans should be first in line to pony up a $1,000 to $2,000 annual "health care tax."

Our shared view is that Defense Department leaders' first budget priority should be to address their own financial oversight responsibilities rather than just shifting costs to beneficiaries because that's the easiest way to cut costs.

MOAA is pleased that the House-passed Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 4310) would take a step in this direction by requiring the Pentagon to establish a unified medical command to put all of the currently fragmented and competing health care delivery systems under a single point of responsibility. Multiple government studies have recommended this for years as a way of saving billions in health costs over the long term. But defense leaders have resisted it at every turn.

Use MOAA's Web site to send our suggested message to White House and Pentagon leaders.

The Supreme Court and You

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the health reform law has generated lots of member questions about what that means for the military and veterans community.

The short answer is: "not much, at least for the shorter term, except to preserve TRICARE coverage for children up to age 26."

At the urging of MOAA and others, Congress passed separate legislation specifically exempting TRICARE and VA beneficiaries from any potential for being taxed for not having coverage or being required to participate in pooled coverage.

For the longer term, the main potential issues we see for MOAA members are:

Whether the expanded pool of the healthcare-eligible population will at some point create access problems due to more beneficiaries needing to see the same number of doctors

The uncertainty over what impact potential future Medicare cost-saving initiatives may have on all Medicare-eligibles

But those issues haven't changed from what they were before the Supreme Court ruling. And the potential for Medicare cutbacks was going to continue whether the health reform act was upheld or not, since rising Medicare costs pose a huge budget challenge in any scenario.

With all of the publicity over the health reform law decision, there's been less attention paid to the Supreme Court's other decision this week to strike down the "Stolen Valor Act" that imposed criminal penalties for lying about receiving the Medal of Honor and other military decorations.

MOAA and many other military and veterans associations had filed a brief with the Court in support of the Stolen Valor Act.

But the Court ruled that, however contemptible it is to lie about receipt of military decorations, it’s an unconstitutional abridgement of freedom of speech to make such lies illegal.

Several legislators have expressed interest in crafting alternative legislation that would comply with the Court's ruling, perhaps by making it illegal to profit from lying about one's military record.

Homeowner Relief in Sight

Two key bills to provide additional relief for military homeowners that MOAA supports received the Pentagon's backing last week.

DoD witness Frederick E. Vollrath, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management, stated during a Hill hearing, "Taking care of our military before, during and after their service to our country is one of the Department of Defense's highest priorities."

One of the bills winning Pentagon support was "The Military Family Protection Act" (H.R. 5747), sponsored by Rep. Cummings (D-MD). It would improve protections for service members, disabled veterans and surviving spouses against mortgage foreclosures and expand protections for troops serving in support of contingency operations.

DoD also supports "The Fairness for Military Homeowners Act" (H.R. 4740), sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA). The bill, which was included in the House version of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, would ensure that military homeowners who receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders and are forced to move away from their principal residences aren't prevented from refinancing the mortgages on those properties.

In a related development, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced last week changes in short-sale policies for military family homeowners facing a permanent change of station and saddled with an underwater mortgage held by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

To be eligible:

  • The service member must be in the military and have a PCS order
  • The existing mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  • The service member can be current or delinquent on the mortgage to apply for a short sale
  • The property must have been purchased on or before June 30, 2012

Military homeowners can click here for more information.

Veterans Bills on the Move

Final action is expected in the next few weeks on several bills that would provide services and support to the nation's veterans.

S. 3340 (Sen. Murray, D-WA) would extend eligibility for certain VA mental health services to family members of veterans; direct DoD to create a standardized, comprehensive suicide prevention program; and require the VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services and implement a mental health provider staffing model.

S. 2320 (Sen. Ayotte, R-NH) would direct the American Battlefields Monument Commission (ABMC) to operate and maintain the veterans cemetery at the former Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. That cemetery is the final resting place of more than 8,300 servicemembers and family members, but was abandoned in 1991 after the Mt Pinatubo eruption. The Army and Air Force had maintained it continuously from 1898 until 1991. ABMC manages all other overseas military cemeteries, including two in the Philippines.

S. 2259 (Sen. Tester, D-MT), the "COLA Adjustment Act," would authorize adjustments in veterans compensation, pension and other benefits for 2013, in the same percentage as any Social Security cost-of-living increase.

H.R. 1627 (Rep. Miller, R-FL) would provide VA health care eligibility for certain dependents stationed at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more from 1957-1987, a period during which the water there was known to be contaminated with carcinogens. VA care would be limited to 14 specific conditions tied to the contamination.

H.R. 4057 (Rep. Bilirakis, R-FL) would strengthen consumer education and transparency of information for veterans using their GI Bill benefits.

H.R. 4115 (Rep. Stivers, R-OH) would require that as a condition of receiving grant funds for job counselors for disabled and other veterans, a state must take military training and consideration into account when determining eligibility for certain state licenses or credentials for registered nurses, emergency medical technicians, nursing assistants and commercial drivers’ licenses.

More from MOAA

Quote of the Week

"Laws enacted to honor the brave must be consistent with the precepts of the Constitution for which they fought...[including] the sometimes inconvenient principles of the First Amendment." (Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion on the Stolen Valor Act – see article below)

New Pay and Benefits Report

DoD released its "11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation" report last week. The study contains analysis and recommendations on pay comparability, incentive and combat pays, wounded warrior/caregiver/survivor compensation, and reserve pay and retirement.

Legislative Update is published weekly by MOAA, 201 N. Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

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