Defense Bill Includes "Temporary" Concurrent Receipt Improvements

The House adopted several floor amendments and approved its version of the FY2010 Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 2647) this week. The legislation passed by a vote of 389-22 and does not seek a TRICARE fee increase, nor does it extend the current prohibition on TRICARE fee increases and pharmacy co-pay increases that expires September 30, 2009.

The bill partially authorizes the Administration's proposal to expand Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) payments for service members who were medically retired with less than 20 years of service (Chapter 61 retirees). If enacted, the complete plan would be phased-in over five years starting January 1, 2010, and does not include traditional (non-Chapter 61) retirees. The bill, however, only provides funding for the first phase of the Administration's proposal, as detailed in the following schedule:

  • January 2010: Chapter 61 retirees with VA ratings of 90% or 100%;  
  • January 2011: Chapter 61 retirees with 70% or 80% VA ratings;  
  • January 2012: Chapter 61 retirees with 50% or 60% VA ratings;
  • January 2013: Chapter 61 retirees with VA ratings of 30% or 40%; and  
  • January 2014: all Chapter 61 retirees with any VA rating become eligible.

Without further funding the new benefit would terminate after just nine months of payments (January 1, 2010 - September 30, 2010). House leaders could find only enough money to authorize and pay for the nine-month expansion, but HASC Chairman Ike Skelton (Mo.) called this a "temporary fix," explaining that the HASC will have to come back with additional money each year as costs increase with more retirees becoming eligible with each subsequent expansion.  Shipmates are invited to visit to share their views on concurrent receipt and other important legislative matters.

Additionally the legislation authorizes a 3.4% pay hike, extends various special pays and allowances for the service members, expands TRICARE health coverage for the Reserve Component, dedicates significant funding to improve family housing, and requires DoD and the VA to report the progress on development of the electronic medical records.

In closed session this week the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) finalized its version of the Defense Authorization bill (S. 1033). It was reported that the SASC approved a 3.4-percent active duty pay increase, which is 0.5 percent larger than requested by the Administration.

President Obama is threatening to veto the bill if funding for certain fighter aircraft is authorized, a provision currently in both chambers' versions of the legislation.