House, Senate Pass FY 2013 NDAA

In the face of a presidential veto threat, the Conference Committee report of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 4310) was approved by the House and Senate this week.

The legislation is silent on the Administration’s request for drastic increases to TRICARE fees and new Standard and TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) enrollment fees for retirees. DoD’s request for excessive pharmacy co-pays was rejected in favor of a House plan authorizing a more modest increase in TRICARE pharmacy co-pays in 2013, with future increases limited to no more than the annual percentage increase in the retiree cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2014 through 2022. Also included is a five-year pilot program that requires TFL beneficiaries to obtain refills of maintenance drugs through TRICARE Home Delivery (by mail) for at least one year.  

The bill also authorizes a commission to study military pay and retirement benefits, which prevents any reductions to current active duty and current retiree benefits. Further, the Conference Committee rejected a provision that would have given the commission the authority to bypass congressional committee and subcommittee consideration of its recommendations.

Other NDAA Conference Report provisions include:   

  • Fixing a concurrent receipt glitch that reduces the monetary benefit for some disabled retirees when their disability rating is increased;
  • Authorizing a 1.7 percent increase for active duty/ Reserve pay;
  • Requiring a DoD report on future availability and access to TRICARE Prime throughout the United States;
  • Requires states to ensure training received by a veteran while on active duty is taken into consideration when granting certain certifications and licenses;
  • Providing civil liability remedies for violations of the active duty consumer protections under the predatory lending law;
  • Providing parity for certain benefits for U.S. Coast Guard Reserve personnel;
  • Requiring DoD to report, after the closure of any overseas U.S. military base, a plan to ensure that a federal agency or private entity assume responsibility for continued maintenance and oversight of any cemetery located on the base;
  • Extending increased BAH rates and active duty leave rollovers;
  • Providing $25 million in additional Impact Aid for schools that educate military children and $5 million for military children with special needs; and
  • Expanding TRICARE coverage to include health services for military children with autism.

Sequestration threats (automatic budget cuts to include DoD’s budget) still remain as the January 2, 2013, deadline grows closer. In addition, reimbursement rates for physicians seeing Medicare and TRICARE patients will be reduced by 27 percent effective January 1, 2013, unless the so-called “doc fix” is extended or made permanent. The House and Senate will be back in session on December 27, 2012, in hopes that a “grand bargain” can agreed to on these issues and other issues.

For more on NDAA, read Tom Philpott’s “Military Update” column (12-27-12).