FRA NewsBytes April 18, 2014

In this issue:
House Panel Listens to Beneficiary’s Concerns on Program Cuts
USMC Sergeant Major Responds to Pay Cut Testimony
Navy to Increase Sea Pay May 1
VA Care, TRICARE and Obamacare

House Panel Listens to Beneficiary’s Concerns on Program Cuts
At a recent hearing, the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee (HASC-MP) gave the Military Coalition (TMC) the opportunity to express concerns of the coalition, which is composed of 33 military and veterans organizations, including FRA. The Subcommittee expressed concern over DoD’s proposals to cap future active duty pay increases, TRICARE fee increases, reduce Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and cut commissary benefits, especially before the final report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) is released in February, 2015. Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (S.C.), recipient of FRA’s 2014 Pinnacle Award, and Ranking Member Susan Davis (Calif.) objected to these proposed cuts and indicated that the subcommittee would make significant changes in the next few weeks.

FRA submitted a statement to the subcommittee that is available on the FRA Action Center. To read it, navigate to and then click “FRA Testimony.”

USMC Sergeant Major Responds to Pay Cut Testimony Comments
The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps issued a statement to clarify his oral testimony before the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee on April 9, 2014, in which he said pay and compensation are not among the top three concerns of active duty Marines. He further said that “Marines prefer better equipment over high pay and that lowering pay raises would improve discipline.” FRA’s February–March 2014 online survey indicates that the top three concerns for active duty are: 1) Base pay (93% rated “Very important”), 2) Health care access (92% rated “Very important”), and Retirement benefits (91% rated “Very important”).

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal Barrett said his words were misreported, which caused Marines to believe he doesn't care about their quality of life and level of pay. The Sergeant Major's letter of explanation is available on the FRA website.

Navy to Increase Sea Pay May 1
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced this week that effective May 1, 2014, Sailors and Marines who are deployed at sea for 190 days or more could see as much as a 25 percent increase in their monthly stipend. According to Secretary Mabus, the increase in sea pay is needed to help fill thousands of critical positions at sea that typically involve frequent, long deployments. “Those Sailors and Marines on sea duty, deployed away from home around the world, are the backbone of the Navy and Marine Corps, and enable us to provide and maintain our global presence,” said Mabus in March when the incentive was approved. “This increase is long overdue and is meant to reward our Sailors and Marines for their continued sacrifices as part of ‘America’s Away Team’.”

VA Care, TRICARE and Obamacare
A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report claims that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) anticipates a net increase in enrollment as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also commonly known as “Obamacare.” The VA is assuming that the ACA requirement for individuals to pay a penalty unless they comply with the minimum essential health coverage will encourage non-enrolled eligible veterans to enroll in VA health care.

Since January 1, 2014, all Americans must have Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) to fulfill the individual-coverage mandate of ACA. Unless exempted, those without MEC may be required to pay a penalty (a “shared responsibility payment”) for each month they go without healthcare coverage.

TRICARE Prime, Prime Remote and Standard; the U.S. Family Health Plan, TRICARE Overseas plans; Transitional Assistance Management Plan; and TRICARE for Life (TFL) meet the requirements of MEC. Purchased programs such as TRICARE Young Adult (TYA), TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR), TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS), and the Continued Health Care Benefit Program also qualify.

FRA worked to ensure TRICARE and VA healthcare programs are separate from the ACA, and the FRA Legislative Team continues to monitor implementation of the law to ensure those programs are not adversely impacted by unanticipated consequences.

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Related Files
Sgt Maj Letter to Marines 4-11-14 (Adobe PDF File)