January 22 2016

Commissary Reform Plan to Protect Savings
The DoD is, thankfully, modifying its approach to reforming the commissary benefit with new guarantees to preserve overall shopper savings and also to avoid pay cuts for current employees, according to Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO) Peter Levine, who participated in a recent teleconference.

The guarantees are part of a revised commissary overhaul proposal that officials believe Congress, shopper advocates and store suppliers will view far more favorably than the department’s previous push to slash the funding of base grocery stores and, in effect, end the benefit. Read full story here! http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/on-base/2015/10/27/commissary-exchange-merger-unnecessary-official-says/74686012/

FRA strongly supports the commissary as a “hallmark benefit common to generations of service members.”

2016 is already shaping up to be another year that FRA will be fighting hard to protect your compensation. We believe that military compensation should at least be competitive with the civilian sector, and recognize the extraordinary demands of military service. Many servicemembers and their families are already struggling and cannot afford to have their pay checks chipped away with lower pay raises, more reduction to basic allowance for housing, increased out-of-pocket costs for health care, and a cut in commissary savings.

FRA is in your corner and is working hard to require annual pay raises remain tied to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) as prescribed by law. In the past three years, service members received their lowest pay increase since it became all-volunteer force in the 1970s. Lower pay raises than the rate of inflation means that even though our pay goes up, our spending power is less than it was in the year before.
We believe that Department of Defense (DoD) should be exempt from sequestration, which is the root cause of these cuts.

DoD is asking service members to pay more for their housing (BAH reduction). BAH no longer covers 100% of housing and utility costs. Service members have been made to absorb 1 percent of the cost in 2015, 2 percent in 2016 and are projected to absorb an additional 1 percent per year for the next three years.

DoD has requested that military families pay more for their healthcare (increased copays for healthcare and pharmacy).

DoD continues to threaten major cuts to the commissary, which on average provides 30% savings for service members and their families around the world.

FRA has your back! Most of us have served and some of us are still serving in uniform. Your fight is our fight. We need your help more than ever this year, please visit the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) and let your voice be heard.

FRA Launches 2016 Survey on Military Benefits
YOU are an important component of FRA’s Legislative Team! As part of our mission to fight for the concerns of enlisted personnel to Capitol Hill, FRA is conducting an online survey to determine which military benefits are most important to our nation’s service members. The brief survey, available at www.fra.org/survey, asks current and former members of the uniformed services and their spouses to rate the importance of various benefits and quality-of-life programs associated with their service to our nation.

“As Congress explores ways to cut federal spending, many hard-earned benefits are in the budgetary crosshairs,” explains Tom Snee, FRA’s National Executive Director. “FRA is asking all current and former military personnel and their spouses to share their opinions about the programs they value most. Survey responses and comments from participants provide important reference information when we testify before Congress or meet one-on-one with lawmakers and their staff.”

FRA shares the survey results with elected officials on Capitol Hill, key committee staff, and leaders within the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs—ensuring these crucial decision-makers understand the enlisted sea service perspective.

Visit www.fra.org/survey to let FRA know which military and veteran benefits are most important to you!.

Stephen TassinAbout OnWatch

OnWatch is a quarterly news update for active duty and Reserve personnel, written by Stephen Tassin. He recently transitioned from active duty to service as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Marine Corps Reserve Force, and has a personal interest in these matters. As the assistant director of Legislative Programs for the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), he’s also committed to FRA’s mission to maintain and improve the quality of life for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel and their families. He looks forward to keeping you up to date on FRA’s legislative efforts to protect and enhance your earned military and veterans’ benefits.

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