The Association of the U.S. Army is issuing a Call to Action for its members because of serious disagreements with some provisions of the Senate version of the 2016 defense policy bill. The Senate’s 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1376, is being debated on the Senate floor and could come to a final vote by the end of the week.
AUSA urges those with similar concerns to join us to join the fight to protect compensation and the all-volunteer force.
AUSA’s key objections revolve around several compensation-related provisions that would cut Defense Department costs by hurting soldiers, retirees and military families in the process.
AUSA cosigned a letter from The Military Coalition to the Senate objecting to these provisions, saying there are “several harmful provisions in the proposed legislation that we find troubling.” Some of the proposals would “continue to erode the pay and benefits needed to sustain the all-volunteer force and their families,” the letter states. “We understand budgets are tight, but by striking these provisions you will send a very strong message of support to the men and women who wear the uniform and their families.”
Here are some of the specific objections:
1. Basic pay
The bill proposes a 1.3 percent military raise in 2016, less than the 2.3 raise mandated by law to keep pace with private sector salary increases. AUSA believes the value of military pay has been eroded by two consecutive years of pay caps, and does not support limiting the raise again in 2016.
2. Basic Allowance for Housing
Two cuts are related to military housing allowances.
– One requires soldiers to pay more out-of-pocket for housing by holding allowance rates to as much as 5 percent below the actual average cost of housing for their pay grade and location, a move estimated to save the government $3.8 billion over five years.
– The second proposal reduces housing allowances for members who are married or living together. Each member of a married couple would no longer receive a housing allowance, but instead receive a single allowance at the with-dependents rate. The result would be an average reduction in pay of $1,100 per couple per month. For unmarried members living together, their housing allowance would be reduced by 25 percent or to the rate for an E-4 without dependents.
3. Commissary funding
The Senate bill reduces taxpayer funding for commissaries by $322 million. It authorizes across-the-board increases to reimburse the cost of transporting some U.S.-made items to overseas stores, and authorizes price increases to fund operating costs by removing a requirement for commissary items to be sold at cost.
4. TRICARE Pharmacy
Copayments for those using the TRICARE pharmacy system would increase beginning in 2016, a move the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says would lead some beneficiaries to reduce their use of medication, and possibly lead to more outpatient visits and hospitalizations. Service members retired for medical reasons, spouses of members who die on active duty, and the family members of both of those groups would be exempt from any copay increases. TRICARE could save $1.4 billion in pharmacy costs from the change.
How can you help? Contact your senators to let them know how you feel about these provisions. Visit the AUSA webpage, www.ausa.org, click on the Legislative Agenda link and then click on “Contact Congress”. Enter your zip code and then on the AUSA-suggested letter, “Preserve Our Military Benefits.” Since the bill is on the Senate floor now, time is critical.