MOAA LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR 2023
Legislative Priorities for the 118th Congress
By: MOAA Staff
As the legislative slate is wiped clean for the 118th Congress,
grassroots support becomes even more vital to achieving MOAA’s advocacy
MOAA needs your help to keep momentum for existing priorities
such as the Major Richard Star Act, which would benefit tens of thousands of
combat-injured veterans and had the support of two-thirds of Congress at the
end of last session. We also need your work on behalf of new objectives and
emergent issues, often via immediate action to keep up with the stop-and-go
pace of legislation. To keep connected, ensure you are signed up for The MOAA Newsletter and register as an advocate at our
Legislative Action Center.
Here is a look at MOAA’s priorities, in support of the 50th
anniversary of our all-volunteer force and to address the challenges facing our
uniformed community. Note: Our advocacy team remains active on many other
issues not listed here; our priorities will be shaped throughout the year
depending on concurrent successes or emerging issues that warrant an all-hands
approach. Additionally, we share many interests with The Military Coalition and
other stakeholder groups, and leverage those relationships to expand our reach
on Capitol Hill.
Compensation and Service-Earned Benefits
Problems: The ongoing recruiting crisis
and unit level personnel shortages create a “do more with less” Personnel “Perfect Storm” for the force and further erode
the quality of life for servicemembers and their families. DoD is in a war for
talent and is struggling to recruit the force we need to defend our country.
Compensation and quality of life remain relevant to our nation’s
recruiting challenges. Servicemembers deserve compensation competitive with the
private sector. Congress has allowed the White House to shortchange troops in
the past, leading to a 2.6% pay raise gap –something we cannot allow to happen
again as servicemembers struggle to make ends meet.
Funding the government on time and strictly keeping to the
congressional schedule seems to be a bridge too far for both parties and both
chambers. This could lead to a federal shutdown, which would hit Coast Guard,
U.S. Public Health Service, and NOAA servicemembers hard since their pay is not
guaranteed like those in DoD. We need to fix this: All eight of our services
continue to work when the government shuts down, and our servicemembers deserve
to be paid for their service.
MOAA also continues to advocate against offsets for some
disabled retirees and veterans. Existing legislation places an unfair tax on
retired pay to fund a servicemember’s own disability.
- Ensure pay at or above the Employment Cost
Index, and ensure all allowances and programs necessary to recruit and
retain a quality force.
- Ensure pay continues for all eight uniformed
services during a government shutdown.
- Provide for concurrent receipt of military
retirement pay from DoD and disability pay from the VA.
Problems: The Basic Allowance
for Housing (BAH) is designed to cover 95% of housing costs, a steady drop from
100% that took place between 2015 and 2019. This left military families to
cover anywhere from $100 to $184 out
of pocket each month. With rising housing costs – both for rental properties
and home sales – an estimated 75% of military families are paying over $200 out of pocket each
month, according to
a Blue Star Families survey. BAH should be restored to 100%, the BAH
calculation methods should be revised to keep pace with rapid changes in the
market, and the housing profiles used in the calculation should be reviewed to
reflect current military demographics.
The Military Privatized Housing Initiative was a gamble by
Congress and DoD to leverage private dollars to quickly build on-installation
housing after years of neglect and deferred maintenance in appropriations. Although
the speed of the construction was an initial success, the public-private
partnership failed to ensure servicemembers and their families were provided
safe and adequate housing. As problems emerged, commanders learned they were
left with ineffective tools and questionable authorities to address housing
complaints from servicemembers. Mold, pests, and other unsafe conditions in
privatized military housing persist.
The Tenant Bill of Rights, an initiative adopted by most
privatized housing companies, is not widely known nor enforced. Many families
were forced to turn to the media after their chain of command was unable to fix
their housing problems. The initiative resulted in partnerships with landlords
and investors that require agreement by all parties to implement changes. The
nature of the partnership undermines the chain of command, resulting in the
loss of trust in leadership. Accountability was not designed into the process,
leading to unsafe and inadequate housing.
- Restore BAH at 100% of researched housing
costs per Military Housing Area.
- Ensure barracks are safe and healthy places to
live, verified by the chain of command and government-owned work centers.
- Codify procedures and authorities to increase
out-of-cycle housing allowances to address emergencies such as reduced
availability of housing and rising utility costs.
Health Care for Currently Serving and Retirees
Problems: The military health
care benefit is at risk. TRICARE beneficiaries are paying more for prescription
drugs while the value of the TRICARE Pharmacy Program has been slashed via a
growing list of non-covered drugs, more restrictive prior-authorization
policies that are out of step with best practices, and a 25% reduction to the
retail pharmacy network. These cuts disproportionately impact the elderly and
those with chronic medical conditions, making it more difficult and costly to
adhere to medication regimens.
Military health system (MHS) reforms directed by Congress have
resulted in higher fees and copays, particularly for working-age retirees, yet
TRICARE coverage polices have failed to keep up with evolving policies,
technologies, and treatment protocols. Beneficiaries are paying more for
TRICARE coverage that is years behind commercial plan benchmarks.
The direct care system of military hospitals and clinics has
undergone a massive reorganization accompanied by changing policies at the
military treatment facility (MTF) level and capacity reductions due to the MHS
Genesis electronic health record implementation – yet there is minimal
visibility on impacts to patient access, quality of care, and the patient
experience. Access to care metrics have disappeared from MTF websites, and
patients lack a consistent and effective problem-reporting mechanism which would
allow their challenges to be tracked and addressed.
- Reverse cuts to the pharmacy benefit and
establish policy guardrails to ensure access to prescription medications
and limits on copay increases.
- Fix the TRICARE Young Adult parity issue by extending
eligibility to dependents up to age 26 with no separate premium to bring
TRICARE on par with requirements for commercial health plans.
- Require DoD to establish a transparent and
well-publicized problem reporting system for beneficiaries experiencing
MTF access challenges, including an annual report to Congress on the
number and types of beneficiary access problem reports by MTF and steps
taken by the Defense Health Agency to identify and address systemic access
Health Care and Benefits for Veterans
Problems: Passing the
comprehensive toxic exposure reform bill, the Sergeant First Class Heath
Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act was a
monumental victory. Now comes the hard part of ensuring it works as Congress
Veterans rely on long-term and home- and community-based care
services for everything from occasional help around the house to around-the
clock assistance. The VA delivers 14 different types of long term care (LTC)
programs in both institutional settings (like community living centers or
nursing homes) and non-institutional settings (like a veteran’s home or through
community adult day care services called HCBC). Purchasing or providing the
care is placing increased demand on the department’s health care system.
The VA has designated 2023 as “The Year of the Caregiver.” The
department will focus on continuing to implement the expansion of caregiver
support in the MISSION Act, conducting an overall program review, and making
systemwide improvements, to include cases being appealed through the Veterans
Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration.
Additionally, a strong VA workforce and facility infrastructure
are critical components to VA’s long-term success. The aging infrastructure and
high level of vacancies put the success of bills like the PACT Act and
caregiver programs at risk.
MOAA is committed to working with the VA, Congress, and
stakeholder groups to monitor and assist the department in meeting the needs of
veterans, caregivers, families, and survivors, and ensuring full implementation
of major legislation enacted in recent years to modernize the VA across the
- Monitor recent major legislation enacted such
as the PACT Act in the areas of health care, compensation, and follow-on
support for surviving spouses and families, and seek statutory or policy
changes as required.
- Compel Congress and the VA to accelerate
caregiving and whole health care services, and modernization of Veterans
Health Administration workforce and facility infrastructure to improve
veterans access to high quality care.
Problems: Spouses struggle
with employment across the board and are constantly fighting to find and
maintain employment through PCS moves. The unemployment rate among active duty
spouses has hovered between 22% and 24% for over a decade. Efforts to address
this issue have focused primarily on providing educational and professional
development opportunities for military spouses; however, the other side of the
coin is incentivizing businesses to hire someone who will likely move in two or
three years. A multipronged approach is necessary to address the high
Additionally, spouse underemployment continues to negatively
impact military families. Ensuring companies define work as both remote AND
portable is necessary to allow military spouses to keep a career on the move
and progress within their career path. A recent survey of servicemembers showed
39% of respondents cited concerns with spouse employment as a reason for
Compounding this issue is the lack of accessible, affordable child
care. In 2020, DoD reported nearly 9,000 military children were on waiting
lists for child care. The nationwide shortage of child care providers, combined
with a lack of investment in renovating and constructing military child
development centers, has exacerbated this issue in the post-pandemic
DoD has instituted unique programs such as the In-Home Child
Care Fee Assistance to address this issue, but despite 250 spots available for
this program, just 23 families were receiving the fee assistance as of late
2022. This is due to a lack of understanding of program requirements and slow
application processing times. Standardizing child care programs across the
services is necessary to ensure families have clear guidance on the support
Day care challenges are a contributing factor to food insecurity
in our ranks. In September 2022, DoD released a report on the military and food
insecurity, stating 24% of servicemembers and/or their families had experienced
some level of food insecurity within the timeframe studied. The implementation
of the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA), an allowance designed to provide monthly
financial assistance to families falling below 130% of the federal poverty
guideline based on income and family size, is a start. Unfortunately, the law
establishing the BNA allows DoD leadership to determine which military housing
areas will include BAH in the eligibility calculation. The FY 2023 NDAA
increased the threshold to 150% of the federal poverty guideline, but MOAA continues
to advocate for exclusion of BAH in all housing areas to ensure maximum reach.
- Improve congressional support for uniformed
services families: Enhance programs to support spouse employment, ensure
implementation of an effective basic needs allowance, and provide
accessible, affordable child care options.
- Overcome the lack of effective
problem-reporting mechanisms and resolution systems in the Military Health
Problems: When a retired
servicemember passes, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service recoups their
last month of retirement pay. This is frequently a terrible surprise for a new
survivor and adds unnecessary financial stress to a grieving widow. Oftentimes,
survivors have their checking account cleared out due to the recoupment and are
put under extreme financial duress in the wake of their servicemember’s
This is far from the only financial hurdle faced by survivors.
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance
(VGLI) have not kept up with inflation; although the maximum coverage recently
increased from $400,000 to $500,000, it is still more than $100,000 behind
where it should be.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) also has fallen
behind the levels of other federal survivor programs. DIC is 43% of the
compensation of a 100% disabled veteran, compared with 55% of other federal
- Repeal the recoupment of last month’s paycheck
after retiree’s passing.
- Continue to improve SGLI/VGLI updates to match
- Improve DIC baseline to align with other
government entitlements’ baseline of 55%.
Guard and Reserve
Problems: The reserve
component is facing a recruiting crisis. Our nation relies upon these
servicemembers to respond to disasters at home and remain in the rotation to
deploy worldwide in support of the active component. Members of the National
Guard and Reserve must sustain their readiness, and medical care is required to
keep the force deployable and support recruiting and retention.
Reserve component retirees also wait excessively long to receive
their first paychecks. After a career of service, retirees deserve prompt
payments. DFAS and service personnel divisions must stop the finger-pointing
and seek to fix this problem.
- Overcome the lack of TRICARE coverage for the
reserve component to maintain readiness.
- Overcome delayed pay for Guard and Reserve
members when they are promoted or when they retire.
Continue to support Guard and Reserve leaders, and advance legislative
and policy solutions to support the total force.