On Monday of this week the Senate passed its version of the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislation that authorizes the programs the Department of Defense can spend money on, as well as authorizing new programs within DoD. The House passed its version of the NDAA in May.
The next step in the process is a conference committee, which is composed of members from both the Senate and the House. Their job is to work out the differences between the two bills and come up with one bill that will go back to each body for a final vote. The bill is then sent to the President for his signature.
The difference in overall spending between the two bills is “only” about $1,000,000,000. While that is almost an incomprehensible number for most people, in terms of the government it’s rather small.
Both bills would give active duty personnel a 2.6% raise in FY2019 and both would increase the number of active duty personnel each of the services is authorized, although there are significant differences in the numbers which will have to be reconciled.
The biggest difference between the two bills as far as personnel issues go is a provision in the Senate NDAA which would raise health care costs for retirees under the age of 65.
Last year’s NDAA allowed those who entered the military service before January 1, 2018, to keep the TRICARE fees which were in existence at that time. However, anyone who entered after that date were subject to a new TRICARE fee structure which increased their health care costs. The Senate bill would eliminate the “grandfathering” of those in the service prior to January 1 and throw them into the new TRICARE fee structure, thus also raising their health care costs.
It is important to note at this point that retirees over the age of 65 will not be affected by this change.
However, those under age 65 would see significant increases in enrollment fees for both TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select. Those in TRICARE Select would also see their annual deductible double.
TREA is strongly opposed to the Senate provision and we will be lobbying the members of the NDAA conference committee to take it out of the final legislation. We will also be sending out further information on this in the coming days.
The bottom line is that once again military retirees are being forced to pay more for their health care by politicians in the Senate who constantly proclaim their love for military personnel and vow to take care of them. With friends like these, who needs enemies?