Putting 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
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 intended purpose.
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 families.
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.
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.
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 information:
reevaluate your information sources to determine whether there are
valuable new ones you should add and outmoded ones you should drop.
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.
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.
you're searching for information on the web, save time by learning the
advanced search procedures.
forward joke or other irrelevant messages to those who might not have the
time for them. Cc your own messages thoughtfully.
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
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.
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.
creating business documents, use executive summaries when possible. Choose
clear, concise language to communicate, not bureaucratise to impress and
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 you on.
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
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. The highlights…
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) site, www.consumerfinance.gov,
search “reverse mortgage” or talk to your lender.