Defense Bill: Pay, SBP,
TRICARE, and Housing Wins
Senate leaders resolved hundreds of differences between their respective
versions of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill, and followed MOAA's and The
Military Coalition's recommendations on most of them.
summary of selected outcomes.
Pay raise: Approves a 2.1 percent
2017 military raise (matching the average American's), rather than the 1.6
percent proposed by DoD.
Force levels: increases for all
services significantly above the Pentagon proposals.
Housing Allowance: Rejects a
Senate-proposed plan that would have cut allowances by tens of thousands
of dollars a year for dual-servicemember couples and other military
members who share housing.
Spouse Employment: Eliminates
2-year eligibility limitation (after PCS) for noncompetitive appointment
of military spouses to federal civilian positions.
Parental Leave: Authorizes up to 12
weeks of paid leave (including 6 weeks medical recuperation leave) for
primary caregiver after childbirth; 21 days authorized for servicemember
who is the secondary caregiver.
Special Survivor Indemnity
Allowance: Extends this allowance for SBP-DIC widows through May 2018 at
the current $310 monthly rate (this will give us an opportunity to push
Congress next year to increase and further extend the allowance, or
eliminate the offset in its entirety).
SBP for Reserve Components:
Upgrades Survivor Benefit Plan formula for Reserve Component members who
die while on inactive duty for training to equal SBP benefits for those
who die on active duty.
Benefits and Fees
There will be no changes to TFL.
The bill rejects the Pentagon proposal to impose an annual TFL enrollment
fee of up to 2 percent of military retired pay.
Rejects a DoD proposal to roughly
double TRICARE pharmacy copays over 10 years.
Imposes significantly increased
fees and copays only for those who will enter service on
or after January 1, 2018.
Grandfathers currently serving and currently
retired members and families against most increases.
EXCEPT current retirees and family
members enrolled in TRICARE Standard (to be renamed TRICARE Select) will
pay a new enrollment fee of $150/$300 (single/family) per year, starting
in 2020 (NOTE: Chapter 61 (medical) retirees and survivors of members who
died on active duty will be exempt from this enrollment fee).
Establishes a new requirement for
retired members and families (except TFL) to execute a formal annual
enrollment in either TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select, starting in 2017
(IMPORTANT: this means they will have to physically sign a piece of paper
to enroll; enrollment will be required for TRICARE coverage).
Eliminates a requirement to get
pre-authorization for urgent care, and requires all military medical
facilities to maintain urgent care hours until 11 p.m.
Authorizes DoD to provide hearing
aids to family members of retirees at DoD cost.
Authorizes a pilot program of
offering commercial insurance coverage to Reserve component members and
families on the same basis as federal civilians.
Requires implementation of standard
appointment system at all military facilities no later than Jan. 1, 2018,
including issuance of appointment on first call and 24/7 online service
Authorizes retired members and
families to participate in federal civilian dental and vision plan (the
current retiree dental program will go away).
Restores provider payments for
treatment of autism to higher rates that were in effect before April 2016.
Health Care Reform
Places all military hospitals and
clinics under the authority of the Defense Health Agency for purposes of
budgeting, health care policy, and health care administration.
Requires pilot program of
value-based care, which would reimburse providers at higher rate for
providing top-quality care and reduce or eliminate copays for high-value
medications and medical services.
Requires new TRICARE contracts to
improve beneficiary access, improve medical outcomes, improve quality of
care, enhance beneficiary experiences, and reduce DoD health care costs.
By mid-2017, incorporate into
annual performance review of all military and civilian health care
leaders' measures of accountability for patient access to care, quality of
care, improvement in health care outcomes, and patient safety.
By January 2018, implement
productivity standards (e.g., patients seen per day) for all providers in
military treatment facilities (this is intended to improve patient access
to timely care).
Includes a provision aimed at
ensuring fair treatment for California Guardsmen who have been targeted
for recoupment of incentive bonuses paid to them 10 years ago.
Rejected the Senate's proposal
mandating female Selective Service registration, and instead included a
requirement to review the continuing need for Selective Service System
registration and the potential for a national service program.
Requires a DoD report on travel
costs incurred by Reserve Component members.
approved the bill 375 to 34, and the Senate followed suit in a 92-7 vote.
2017 Part B
finally announced the 2017 Part B premiums.
70 percent of
Medicare beneficiaries won't see much of a Medicare Part B premium increase
next year. If you're paying $104.90 a month in 2016, you'll likely pay around
$109 monthly next year. If you're paying more than that now, you'll probably
see about another 10-percent hike for 2017.
The majority of
beneficiaries won't see a large fee hike because of a “hold-harmless” law that
caps most people's Part B premium increase at the dollar amount of the Social
Security check cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
protection doesn't apply for the following groups:
new Medicare enrollees in 2017 (who aren't “held
harmless” because they never paid the lower premium);
Medicare enrollees with incomes above $85,000 a year
($170,000 for a married couple), who already pay premiums higher than the
basic $104.90; and
people who are paying Medicare premiums but don't
receive a Social Security check.
Not only are
these groups not “held harmless,” but the law actually requires their premiums
to be raised an extra amount to cover whatever total premium amount the
held-harmless groups would have been paying if they hadn't been protected.
In other words,
when a small or zero COLA triggers the hold-harmless provision, the three
groups listed above end up having to pay their own premium hikes…and part of
their neighbors', too.
Last year, the
zero-COLA meant a 52-percent increase for beneficiaries not held harmless. MOAA
members sent over 24,000 messages to the Hill, and Congress intervened to
protect these groups from having to pay any share of other people's premiums.
because there was at least a .3 percent COLA, the penalty for the
non-held-harmless groups isn't quite as severe. Further, Medicare officials
already announced they will use Medicare reserves to partially ease the extra
premiums imposed on these groups.
The chart below
shows the 2017 monthly premium rates just announced by Medicare. Premiums for
individuals with incomes less than $85K/$170K (single/married) may vary a
dollar or two, because your individual premium will be based on the size of the
COLA in your personal Social Security check.
is using its reserves to ease increases on those not held-harmless, some think
there won't be as much pressure on Congress to step in with more relief.
As a matter of
principle, MOAA thinks it's wrong to make the groups already being asked to pay
a larger share of their own Part B premiums to shoulder a share of someone
That's why MOAA
will be supporting relief legislation again this year. If successful, we
estimate that would save the affected groups $8 to $15 per month ($16 to $30
for a married couple).