Putting the FY2018 All Together
President Donald Trump signed the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization
Act (NDAA) this past Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony in the White House. The
final bill authorizes a defense budget of $700 billion for DoD. Total
authorized funding in the legislation calls for $634 billion in the base budget
with an additional $66 billion approved in Overseas Contingency Operations
Congress approved the legislation in November, but congressional
leadership did not send the bill on to the president until December in hopes
Congress would be able to reach consensus and vote to raise the defense
spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which the FY 2018 NDAA
exceeds, and pass a defense appropriations bill.
This still remains an issue even though the president has signed
the NDAA. His signing serves to put further pressure on Congress to pass a
defense budget, but Congress needs to act now if the NDAA is to serve its
Instead of passing a budget, Congress has, at this point, passed a
continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government only through Dec. 22 and is
in the process of negotiating another CR that basically “kicks the can” down
the road into January or February.
This state of play does nothing to serve the nation and the troops
and their families. Further, stopgap strategies do not allow DoD to manage
their readiness requirements or plan ahead for the next mission in this
challenging and dynamic security environment.
Congress' most important responsibility under the Constitution is
to provide for the common defense of the nation - with that in mind, the nation
needs Congress to pass a defense budget that fully funds the FY 2018 NDAA.
Doing so will enable the necessary programs that support both the troops and
readiness. However, without a budget, support again will be marginalized,
leaving our nation short of the requirements called for in the NDAA.
MOAA has put out recent calls to action and supporting “On Watch” columns to our membership
asking them to contact their congressional representatives to urge them to pass
a defense budget, not a CR. We need you to do this again, before another CR is passed.
5 key policy decisions in the
FY 2018 NDAA that affect you - but won't happen without a budget
A 2.4-percent active duty pay
raise: This pay raise, equal to the
Employment Cost Index (ECI), helps keep troops' pay competitive with
private-sector wages. The administration originally requested a 2.1-percent
raise - MOAA influenced Congress through a very effective and successful
campaign to fully support the higher pay increase. This is the highest pay
increase for troops since 2010. Even with this pay increase, a 2.6-percent pay
gap remains because of capped pay raises in FYs 2014, 2015, and 2016. MOAA is focused on maintaining active duty
military pay at the ECI and eliminating this pay gap over the next few years.
Unchanged Basic Allowance for
Housing (BAH) calculation: The
Senate tried for the second year in a row to tweak the calculation for BAH in a
way that would have negatively impacted servicemembers, particularly dual
military families. BAH is a component of each individual servicemember's earned
compensation, so MOAA
worked this issue hard with Congress to maintain the calculation as it
currently is in law and will continue to do so on behalf of troops and their
TRICARE: Despite yearlong efforts to prevent TRICARE fee increases,
the final NDAA included progressive year-over-year increases in pharmacy
copayments. Beneficiaries will see steady increases in their cost shares across
all medication tiers, which will save DoD more than $2.1 billion by 2022 and
fund improvements in military readiness and the Special Survivor Indemnity
Allowance (SSIA). Most of the increases will be through the retail pharmacy
sector, but beneficiaries
still can obtain medications atmilitary pharmacies for free.
The new fees will include mail-order generic prescriptions as well. By 2026,
costs are projected to top off at $14 for a 30-day supply of a generic
medication at a retail pharmacy and a 90-day supply by mail. Further, a 30-day
supply of a nongeneric medication at a retail pharmacy will be $48, and a 90-day
supply by mail will hit $44.
Additionally, outside of the NDAA provision,
the Defense Health Agency has introduced a new TRICARE fee structure that will
be applied to the new TRICARE Select option. Increased fees also will
apply to the existing TRICARE Prime option. Beneficiaries can view these
changes at https://tricare.mil/About/Changes/Costs.
These changes to the TRICARE fees and program
options will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
More troops authorized: The FY 2018 NDAA authorizes an additional 20,000 troops -
much needed by the services in the current and projected national security
environment. The Army will increase by 7,500, the Navy by 4,000, the Marine
Corps by 1,000, and the Air Force by approximately 4,100. Reserve forces
across-the-board will grow by about 3,400. MOAA strongly supported in our advocacy efforts on the Hill these
much-needed increases by DoD.
Lessens the “widows tax”: Congress included a provision in the FY 2018 NDAA that
provides a permanent extension to the SSIA. Without congressional action,
67,000 military survivors would lose $2,100 in 2018 if the allowance expired in
May, as it was set to, and over $3,700 a year after that. By extending the SSIA
and indexing future increases to COLA, Congress shows it is making a good-faith
effort to address the widows' tax. Next
year, MOAA will go back to Congress and ask it increase SSIA above COLA to
further reduce the widows tax.
MOAA follows the NDAA throughout the year as
the main vehicle for many of our legislative priorities. If you're interested
in other provisions in the bill, you can view the conference report summary here.
Avoiding Online Information Overload
As easy as it is to access information these
days with your smartphone, tablet, or personal computer, it's equally easy to
get swamped by it. Here are 10 tips for dealing with the glut of
- Periodically reevaluate your
information sources to determine whether there are valuable new ones you
should add and outmoded ones you should drop.
- Filter the info-wheat from the
into-chaff. With email, for instance, you can set up filters to
automatically direct important messages into folders where they'll get
your immediate attention.
- Consider setting aside one or
two times a day to check for new email messages rather than feeling
compelled to check every few minutes. If people need to get in touch with
you in a hurry, they can call, text, or stop by.
- If you're searching for
information on the web, save time by learning the advanced search procedures.
- Don't forward joke or other
irrelevant messages to those who might not have the time for them. Cc your
own messages thoughtfully.
- Keep your email messages to one
screen when possible, and use an informative subject line. Use other
technologies instead of email, such as the telephone, when you expect a
lot of back-and-forths - it will be a lot quicker.
- Selectively respond to email,
and match the length of your response to how eager you are to converse. A
short, polite response indicates you've received the other person's
message but need to move on.
- If you're involved in creating
web pages, try to keep each page to a screen or two, and put the most
important information up front. Break up pages with informative subheads
so readers can get the gist of what you're saying with a quick scan.
- When creating business
documents, use executive summaries when possible. Choose clear, concise
language to communicate, not bureaucratise to impress and confound.
- Avoid time-wasting temptations.
Surfing the web can be both valuable and the ultimate information
timesink, with ever more intriguing but ever less relevant links beckoning
An Introduction to Reverse Mortgages
This article is only an introduction to a financial product and
not a recommendation. You must determine whether it suits your or your parents’
A reverse mortgage is a home equity loan that can provide an extra
source of income for seniors. Equity in a home represents the largest form of
wealth for many seniors. Yet home equity wealth typically remains an untapped
asset for most people in retirement.
You may question why anyone would consider a loan when your
finances are already tight. The reason is this loan does not require pay-off
until the house is eventually sold and the loan is paid back from the proceeds.
There are some regular payments for insurance, fees and taxes.
Eligibility for a reverse mortgage starts at age 62. You qualify
for greater amounts of equity as you age. There are several options for how you
pay yourself from your equity. Be aware that interest is charged on the amount
of equity you use and the interest builds as long as the loan amount remains
outstanding. Considering the loan amount may be outstanding until the home is
sold, interest could be compounding for a long time.
These loans, like any financial product, have their good and bad
points. You have to determine what amounts to good or bad in your situation.
Good points. You can use a major source of assets in retirement.
You can create income stream or pay for major expenses that pop up in lump
sums. You control how you receive loan payments and the amounts. The Home
Equity Conversion Mortgage (reverse mortgage) is highly regulated and overseen
by the federal government specifically to reduce senior abuse—choose a
government approved lender. By design, the pay-off cannot amount to more than
the value of the home. Qualification is not based on income or credit status
(although the borrower must have income enough to maintain the house and pay
the required insurance and taxes).
Bad points. Up-front loan costs. Sketchy loan companies. You must
sell the home at some point, or pay-off the loan from other sources, so family,
friends or charities inheriting the home have to deal with the reverse mortgage
pay-off requirement. Someone living in the home, who is not a co-borrower, will
have to move out when the borrower dies or stops living in the home (e.g. moves
to assisted living). Make sure a spouse is a co-borrower. You could outlive
your equity—depleting the income source. Medicaid eligibility
could be an issue.
Learn more at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
search “reverse mortgage” or talk to your lender.