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Posted on 4/14/2014
The AFSA headquarters staff expended considerable time over the past month meeting with House & Senate members regarding the Administration’s proposals to curb pay raises, cut appropriations for commissaries, and raise TRICARE fees among other ideas. As a result of those efforts, we believe many Representatives in the House will reject a number of the Administration's budget proposals. However we can always use more supporters when the chamber begins marking up its version of the annual defense policy bill at the end of April. This is where you come in. Congress is on recess through April 28th and lawmakers will be working out of their local offices. Call or visit those local offices and urge them to reject any plan that reduces or limits pay, and/or shifts costs of benefit programs to servicemembers, retirees, and military families.
Posted on 4/8/2014
Oversight in Overdrive
Congressional oversight of the authorization and appropriations process has turned into a full court press! This week alone, AFSA is monitoring more than two dozen hearings and markup sessions that could impact our members. The pace ends on Friday when Congress begins its two-week Spring District Work Period. When lawmakers return after the Easter holiday, their emphasis will swing toward the actual writing of authorization and appropriations bills. One area of particular interest to AFSA is the annual defense policy bill. The House Armed Services Committee tells AFSA it plans to write its version of the National Defense Authorization Act at the end of this month.
Posted on 4/3/2014
Posted on 4/2/2014
2014 National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus Breakfast
On April 2, House lawmakers, defense officials and military advocates gathered together for the 2014 National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus Breakfast which AFSA sponsors with several Coalition partners. During the event, Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox and senior representatives from each of the reserve components took a turn at the lectern identifying their priorities for the upcoming year. While the defense budget and concerns with the impact sequestration drew comments from nearly every speaker, three common themes were expressed by each of the military leaders: the need to optimize mission readiness; investing in personnel (retention, training and education, suicide prevention, etc.); and, the importance of taking care of military families. Secretary Fox, was very candid with her proposed positions on the reserve components needs, funding, and very long strategic planning for the defense of our Nation. Her A 10 statements drew some less than desirable looks in the audience. AFSA was honored to support this important annual event on behalf of our Guard and reserve members.
Posted on 4/1/2014
"Doc Fix" Awaits Signature by President
After the House passed the bill last week, late Monday the Senate followed suit (as AFSA predicted) and also approved a 1 year extension of the current "Doc Fix" by a vote of 64-35. Congress needed to act no later than March 31 if they hoped to prevent a 24% cut to Medicare and TRICARE physician reimbursement payments scheduled to begin on April 1. Although President Obama has not yet signed the bill, we have every indication that he will and one more deadline involving Congressional action will again be narrowly averted. The flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula responsible for the perennial "doc-fix" issue will now be placed on the backburner until we reach the next deadline and revisit this issue towards the end of 2014.
Posted on 3/28/2014
Short-term “Doc Fix” Passes House
The House approved a 1 year extension of the current “Doc Fix” and the Senate plans to address this important legislation on Monday, March 31. To recap, Congress must act no later than the end of March if they hope to prevent a scheduled, 24% cut to Medicare and TRICARE physician reimbursement payments on April 1. While AFSA would obviously prefer a permanent solution to the problem, the temporary measure passed by the House and hopefully by the Senate is far more desirable than allowing the current “Doc Fix” to expire.
Former SECDEF Passes
A servant of the people has left for higher ground. America’s very first Secretary of Energy from 1977-1979, former Director of the CIA, and former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger died March 26 at age 85 due to ongoing pneumonia issues. As energy Secretary he helped navigate the Three Mile Island crisis, and as SECDEF he is largely credited with developing Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft like the F-16 Falcon and the A-10 Warthog which is now proposed to be retired.
Posted on 3/25/2014
MEDICARE/TRICARE PATIENTS -HEADS UP ON "Doc" FIX NEEDED THIS WEEK!
Now that lawmakers are back in town, they must tend to legislation that ensures government payments to doctors who treat Medicare & TRICARE keep pace with inflation. The current “Doc Fix” expires at the end of the month so action is needed quickly to prevent a 24% cut in payments to these key groups of healthcare providers. Earlier this month, the House approved a bill that permanently repeals the perennial “fix” by replacing the current formula used to determine rates with a new one that better calculates costs to doctors. A separate, bipartisan effort, still awaits action in the Senate. With little time remaining, Congress may have little or no choice but to approve another temporary patch, in lieu of the permanent fix many (including AFSA) were hoping to see.
Posted on 3/19/2014
Congress Takes Break for District Work Period
The House and Senate will be in recess for a district work period through March 24. This is the time that senators and representatives will be working out of their home state and district offices. AFSA members should take advantage of local access during this time period to speak directly with their elected officials on issues that concern them. Attendance at town hall meetings and other public venues is strongly encouraged. Use these functions as occasions to ask the tough questions and to state the issues for which you need congressional support.
Posted on 3/14/2014
“Doc Fix” Legislation Conundrum Continues
Are you on MEDICARE or been referred to a civilian physician (AD or not) for a disease or injury that military facilities cannot handle? If so, recommend you stay tuned to this very important issue because it could affect everyone that is on Tricare or MEDICARE, especially if the “Doc Fix” legislative expires at the end of this month. After reviewing the below update, please go to our CAPWIZ area and contact your elected officials here in Washington before it’s too late.
Posted on 3/10/2014
AFSA Update on the Proposed Budget
We all drank from the proverbial fire hose of budget data last week and the high rate of information continues to flow as more details emerge about the Administrations fiscal year 2015 plan. Lawmakers will examine all areas of the proposal via the normal hearing process while we focus primarily on the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. No doubt some of last week’s proposals made by DoD were upsetting to members so please keep these facts in mind:
Posted on 3/4/2014
Budget Day in Washington
President Barack Obama officially releases his fiscal 2015 Budget Proposal to Congress on March 4. The document outlines how the Administration plans to spend nearly $1.014 trillion on discretionary programs ranging from the military to national parks—a level set by last December’s budget deal. As previously announced, the defense portion of his plan will seek cap military pay raises at 1% for another year and reduce monthly payments for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Other provisions cut the annual federal appropriation for base commissaries and raise, or create new fees for TRICARE users. He may even recommend the elimination of TRICARE Prime altogether. We will be looking for these and other items once the document is available for public viewing so be sure to check back here for details.