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Washington Update for Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

The Voice of the Enlisted


TREA Washington Update for Tuesday, December 6th 2016


Washington is caught up in a whirlwind. A new Administration is coming to town. Lots of new faces, but some well-known faces are leaving as well. A lame duck Congress is trying to finish some of the work of the 114th session of Congress. In January, all bills that have not been signed into law will need to be re-introduced as new bills,  and the process will begin again to get new co-sponsors. New hearings; new Committee Chairmen and Ranking members. It is a breathtaking time. Oh, and Christmas and Chanukah are right around the corner. 

 

The NDAA Conference Report has arrived …all 3076 pages of it



Walgreens returns to TRICARE Network; CVS in out



DoD Tried to Hide a Shocking Study About Its Wasteful Spending



NDAA Addresses National Guard Bonus Scandal



House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Get New Leadership





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The NDAA Conference Report has arrived …all 3076 pages of it

 

Last week the House and Senate Armed Services Committees released the 2017 NDAA Conference Report. Then on Friday, December 2nd the House of Representatives passed the NDAA report 375 to 34. The Senate is expected to pass it this week so now we have to start studying its 3076 pages. We will probably be writing several articles on this as we get into the very important weeds. But now here are a few important provisions.

 

For those serving today there will be a 2.1% pay raise. This is .5% higher than that requested by President Obama. HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said :”( This bill) provides the full pay raise to which the troops are statutorily entitled for the first time in six years.”

 

 

In total the bill authorizes $134.6 billion in base funding for military personnel including pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits and permanent change of station moves. (approz $700 million less than the President’s request.) But it also provides an additional $3.64 billion in OCO funding would be authorized for military personnel.

 

The big personnel changes occur in military healthcare. There are numerous changes. Hundreds of them, in fact. But the first thing that you should realize is THERE ARE NO CHANGES TO TRICARE FOR LIFE (TFL). NONE So if you use TFL relax.

 

 

For the rest of TRICARE beneficiaries there are numerous changes. TRICARE Prime stays pretty much the same. It is the military version of an HMO/managed care. And then they placed all the many different TRICARE programs (ex: TRICARE Standard, TRICARE Extra, TRICARE Young Adult, TRICARE Guard and Reserve into one TRICARE Select, a military PPO (a non-referral network system.) ALL BENEFICIARIES OF TRICARE SELECT MUST ENROLL YEARLY IN THE PROGRAM.



It places the responsibility of running the MTF’s into the Defense Health Agency (and out of the individual services.) It also

  • Eliminates referral requirements for urgent care and ensure urgent care access for military families
  • Extends care at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) primary care clinics to 11 p.m.
  • Enables retirees to purchase durable medical equipment at the DOD cost
  • Standardizes appointment scheduling and first-call resolution when contacting MTF clinics
  • Directs the creation of an online, device-accessible system.
  • Requires Telehealth services to be available throughout the system

And this is just a few of the changes.





Walgreens returns to TRICARE Network; CVS is out


Starting on December 1st there has been another change in the TRICARE Pharmacy Network Now Walgreens is in and CVS Pharmacies whether standalone or in Target Stores are out. It is important to stop filling your prescriptions at CVS now or you will be charges the full retail price. We have written about this many times, we know but it is urgent that everyone knows this NOW.


For more details go to: https://www.express-scripts.com/TRICARE/index.shtml



 



DOD Tried to Hide a Shocking Study About Its Wasteful Spending

 

According to a report in the Washington Post that was just released, the Pentagon wastes about $125 billion – nearly a quarter of its annual budget – on back-office administrative functions. But because DoD officials feared this would cause Congress to cut its budget instead of giving it more money they buried the study and hoped it would never be revealed.

 

TREA has long advocated that the Department of Defense needs to be audited because of the huge amount of waste we believe takes place. The DoD, which has been under orders from Congress for years to get its books in order so it can be audited, kept making excuses and putting it off time after time. It is the only department of the federal government which has never been audited.

 

Amazingly, this study, done by outside businessmen, took less than a year to complete. According to the report in the Post, high ranking DoD officials had to intervene at times to get some information out of the bowels of the Pentagon because some people were trying to hide the information in the hope that the request would be forgotten and blow over.

 

The study identified ways DoD could save $125 billion over five years. According to the Post, “The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.”

 

And yet, instead of trying to save money DoD officials tried to bury the report.

 

The Pentagon has complained that retirees and uniformed personnel cost too much, and year after year it has proposed dramatic cuts in retirement pay and health care for retirees and active duty personnel. Fortunately, Congress has blocked many of those proposals, but last year a new retirement system was put into law that will force active duty personnel to fund part of their own retirement.

 

 

In addition, Congress is on the verge of overhauling the military health care system and forcing active duty personnel and some retirees to pay more for their health care. This is because health care costs are supposedly “eating the Defense Department alive” in the words of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

 

TREA is not happy with the increased costs of health care that have been forced upon active duty personnel and some retirees but we hope that this new report will at least take the steam out of the constant calls for more cuts in health care and other benefits that have become so constant in recent years.

 

Finally, we have proof that what’s actually eating DoD alive is the incredible waste in its administrative and other functions. This is a story that should receive nation-wide attention by the media. The Pentagon needs to be held accountable and they bureaucrats need to stop blaming military personnel for the high costs of its operations.

 

You can read the entire Washington Post story here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.87aa269e31e0&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

 




NDAA Addresses National Guard Bonus Scandal


The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House of Representatives and is expected to pass the Senate early this week, contains a provision that deals with the National Guard bonus scandal that exploded in the last few days of the election.

 

It includes a provision aimed at ensuring “fair treatment” for California Guardsmen who have been targeted for recoupment of incentive bonuses paid to them roughly a decade ago by changing the burden of proof from the servicemembers who DOD was accusing of fraud to DOD itself.

 

While this seems like an acceptable fix on the surface, it is still unclear at this time what constitutes “fraud” from DOD’s perspective. Is it overt criminal activity, or simply the suspicion that the servicemember should have known that they were ineligible for the bonuses that they were offered?

 

 

Further, it does not address the tax implications of having a debt forgiven – the IRS considers that taxable income, which is unfair since the debt was created through no fault of the servicemember. Stay tuned for more information.

 

 

 

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Get New Leadership

 

Last week it was announced that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) would be chaired in the upcoming 115th Congress by Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN). Congressman Roe, who has been in Congress since he was first elected in 2008, served in the Army and retired as an obstetrician/gynecologist. He also spent time training at a VA hospital in Memphis and worked in consultation with the VA to see veterans in his private practice. He replaces the current HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL).

 

Soon-to-be-Chairman Roe has long been a strong advocate for veterans while serving on HVAC, and TREA: The Enlisted Association is proud to work with him to reform the VA system so that it serves veterans better.

 

The HVAC Ranking Member position has not been decided yet, but it comes down to Acting Ranking Member Mark Takano (D-CA) running against Congressman (and TREA: The Enlisted Association Life Member) Tim Walz (D-MN), a retired Sergeant Major in the Minnesota National Guard who is also the highest-ranking enlisted person to ever serve in Congress.

 

We will keep you updated on the outcome. The Senate has not announced the new chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, but Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is going to be the new Ranking Member, replacing Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

 

 

 

 

PICTURE:   Volley Fire- Sailors fire the first of three volleys during a burial-at-sea ceremony aboard the USS Mahan in the Atlantic Ocean, Nov. 26, 2016. The Mahan is in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility supporting U.S. national security interests in Europe. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Comerford

 

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