Comparison of House and Senate Defense Bills
The House has passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 4310). The Senate version (S. 3254) has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.
What is notable about both bills is what is not in them. Neither bill authorizes new TRICARE enrollment fee increases for military retirees (Prime, Standard and TRICARE-for-Life), nor do they address additional rounds of Base Realignments and Closures (BRAC) – two major provisions in the Administration’s FY 2013 budget request. Although the full Senate has yet to debate its version of the legislation and amendments are yet to be filed, neither bill addresses the concurrent receipt of military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation, repeal of Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP/DIC) offset, or other improvements the Association supports. FRA understands, however, that a Senate floor amendment will be filed to provide comprehensive concurrent receipt reform similar to provisions of the “Retired Pay Restoration Act” (S. 344) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.). Amendments addressing other issues may also be filed.
The House bill seeks higher pharmacy co-pays in 2013, but at levels below DoD’s request, and, starting in 2014, annual co-pay increases that would be limited to the index used for cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for military retirement pay and other indexed benefits. Although FRA opposes higher co-pays, this House provision is less onerous than the Senate’s proposal, which mirrors DoD’s plan and pegs future increases to healthcare inflation. To offset costs associated with the proposed fees, the House bill also authorizes a five-year pilot program that would require TRICARE for Life beneficiaries to use home delivery (mail order) for maintenance prescriptions, with an opt-out option after one year.
Both versions of the NDAA authorize a 1.7-percent pay increase for active duty and Reserve personnel that is equal to the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which is consistent with FRA’s support for annual pay increases at least equal to ECI. Both bills also authorize $25 million in additional Impact Aid for schools with large military populations and $5 million for military children with special needs. Additionally both bills authorize TRICARE Standard for 180 days following a Reservist’s involuntary separation from duty.
After the Senate approves its bill, a conference committee will resolve the differences between the two measures. A detailed chart comparing the two bills will be published in the July issue of FRA Today.
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