Weekly newsletter of the Fleet Reserve Association
January 12 2018

In this issue:
FRA Launches Survey on Military and Veterans Benefits
Budget Negotiations Stall as Deadline Approaches
DHA Reduces Some Scheduled TRICARE Copay Increases

FRA Meets With Capitol Hill Staffers
HVAC Passes VA Choice Improvements

FRA Launches 2018 Survey on Military and Veterans Benefits
YOU are an important component of FRA's Legislative Team! As part of our mission to fight for the concerns of enlisted personnel on Capitol Hill, FRA is conducting an online survey to determine which military and veterans' benefits are most important to active duty and Reserve personnel, retirees, veterans and their families. The brief survey is available by clicking here

It 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.

FRA will share the 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.

Click here for the online survey and let FRA know what military and veteran benefits are most important to you!

Budget Negotiations Stall as Deadline Approaches
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) that is keeping the government operating expires on Friday, January 19, 2018. Budget negotiations have stalled and have become embroiled in a host of other issues such as immigration reform. Congress has, in past years, managed to make short-term compromises and lifted the caps for a couple of years at a time. No such agreement applies for the FY2018 budget.  In December, President Trump signed the FY2018 Defense Authorization Act (H.R.2810) into law. To be fully implemented, Congress must pass appropriations legislation and must change or eliminate sequestration defense spending caps. Once again, members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to exclude Defense from sequestration.

DHA Reduces Some Scheduled TRICARE Copay Increases
The Defense Health Agency (DHA) recently announced reductions in specific co-pay increases for retirees using TRICARE Select and for active duty families. TRICARE Select beneficiaries will see their copayments for primary care, specialty care, urgent care, emergency room visits and ambulance services increase. Active-duty military families will see copay increases drop from $27 to $21 and retirees will see increases reduced from $35 to $28. TRICARE Select will no longer pay a percentage of cost but will pay a fixed per visit rate for network providers. FRA wants to thank those Shipmates who used the Action Center to oppose the fee increases imposed by regulatory order. Your efforts forced DHA to re-examine its rationale for the increases.

FRA Meets With Capitol Hill Staffers
FRA staff DLP John Davis and NVSO Chris Slawinski met with House Armed Services Committee, Military Personnel Subcommittee staff for an off-the-record meeting to discuss legislative priorities. The Military Coalition (TMC) policy committee co-chairmen were invited to discuss TMC policy goals for their respective TMC policy committees. TMC Retiree Committee co-chairman Davis told Hill staffers that comprehensive concurrent receipt reform is a top priority for FRA and TMC this year. Slawinski, co-chairman TMC Guard and Reserve Committee, discussed end strength levels and concerns that operational reserve status is evolving into active duty status. 

Other issues discussed at the off-the-record meeting included implementation of TRICARE changes, TRICARE fee increases, future active duty pay increases and increasing the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).     

HVAC Passes VA Choice Improvements
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee recently passed "The VA Care in the Community Act" (H.R.4242).  Consequently streamlining the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) community care accounts into one veteran-centric program—replaces the Choice Program—and removes the current 30-day, 40-mile requirement to give veterans more timely access to community care. The bill would consolidate VA's existing community care programs into one cohesive program. It would modernize VA's medical claims processing system to ensure that community providers can expect to be paid on time for the care they provide to veterans on the VA's behalf. It would further require the VA to conduct periodic local capacity and market assessments.  These would identify how gaps in care can be addressed through improvements to both internal and external capacity, standardize rates the VA pays to community providers and authorize the VA to enter into provider agreements for needed care, when contracts are not achievable. 

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) earlier passed the "Caring for Our Veterans Act" (S.2193).  It is intended to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system by providing easier access for veterans to meet with private-sector doctors and expansion of the VA's care givers assistance programs. The bill also includes $3 billion in additional funding for the current VA Choice Program. FRA believes the VA's first priority must be to ensure all veterans, currently waiting for treatment, are provided timely access to care.

Members can use the FRA Action Center to ask their Representative to support H.R. 4242 and their Senators to support S. 2193.




NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail us  and include your name and contact information in the body of e-mail. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number.

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