FRA NewsBytes February 27 2015

FRA Newsbytes 02/27/2015

FRA Newsbytes 02/27/2015

In this issue:
FRA Opposes Proposed Changes to Military Retirement
FRA NED Testifies Before SASC Personnel Subcommittee
FRA Discusses Issues with Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Others
Senior Enlisted Testify Before MilCon/VA Appropriations Subcommittee
FRA NED Attends State of Coast Guard Speech

FRA Opposes Proposed Changes to Military Retirement
The Military Compensation Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) recently released its final report, which includes 15 recommendations. The first recommendation would provide that future service members receive a reduced defined benefit plan (20-plus year retainer pay), a re-enlistment bonus after 12 years of service for re-enlisting for four more years, and a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP—a voluntary, defined contribution plan from service member’s pay) with a contribution from the federal government. The TSP benefit can go with the service member (portable) if he/she leaves the service before obtaining the current 20-year vesting required by the current defined benefit plan. The service member must pro-actively decline or change the voluntary employee contribution, and the benefit becomes available at age 59 ½.

FRA is concerned that this “blended” retirement package does not provide enough incentive for future service members to serve 20 or more years, and analysis shows that providing this retirement benefit to those who serve less than 20 years is partially paid for by reducing benefits to those who serve 20 or more years. Members are asked to contact their legislators to ask that they not support a portable retirement benefit to those who serve as little as two years, if it is paid for by reducing benefits for those who serve 20 or more years.

Members are urged to use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their legislators to oppose the retirement changes recommended by the MCRMC, (www.MCRMC.gov).
FRA NED Testifies Before SASC Personnel Subcommittee
On Wednesday, February 25, FRA National Executive Director (NED) Thomas Snee appeared before the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee (SASC-P) to express the views of our association regarding recommendations made by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) that impact health care. Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Ranking Member Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and committee members, Tom Cotton (Ar)iz. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Sen. McCain (Ariz.) were among those present. Before commenting on MCRMC recommendations NED Snee explained that Defense should be excluded from the across-the-board “mindless” budget cuts of sequestration that requires half of the cuts to come from Defense even though Defense expenditures make up less than 17 percent of the Federal budget.

MCRMC recommendation 6 calls on Congress to replace TRICARE with a new system that provides beneficiaries with choices offered by commercial insurance companies. “FRA believes that such vast and dramatic change to the health care benefits should require additional review,” Snee told the members of the subcommittee. “Recommendation 6… has major concerns for our members under the age of 65. The Association believes that over time this could devalue the current 20-plus year career of military service. The question we need to ask is, ‘are we advocating a culture of early departure over a viable career, with a potential negative impact on manning requirements through recruiting and/or retention models?’ FRA advocates that other options to make TRICARE a more cost-efficient measure should be implemented before increasing costs to TRICARE beneficiaries. It has been noted that higher costs will ensure a bette r access and care response. Will this be a measured contractual guarantee?” Snee asked pointedly.

Snee stated that FRA shares the commission’s concern about timely access and waiting for care at VA facilities. “FRA recommends a measurable pilot program in specific geographical locations currently not served by TRICARE PRIME that might demonstrate if the plan is effective and meets the needs of beneficiaries.” Snee concluded his remarks on recommended health care changes by stating that FRA fully supports recommendation 8, and “strongly encourages a quicker collaborative joint action between DoD and the VA on the joint electronic health care record system to provide a seamless transition for our members from DoD to VA health care.”
FRA Discusses Issues with Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Others
FRA’s DLP John Davis and ADLP Ben Young attended a VSO/MSO roundtable discussion with several prominent members of the House Democratic Caucus including: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.), a member of House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC); Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla..), ranking member of the HVAC; Rep. Stanford Bishop (Ga.), ranking member of the House Appropriations, Military Construction/VA Subcommittee; and others. The discussed focused on difficulties with the recently passed Veterans Choice legislation. The Department of Veterans Affairs mailed out more than eight million Choice cards to veterans; but only one million of those are eligible to use the program. It was reported that only 30,000 requests for non-VA care have been filed.

Legislators asked for reactions to the report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization (MCRMC). Davis commented on the first MCRMC recommendation by stating that FRA opposes any plan to provide retirement benefits to those who serve less than 20 years if it is paid for by reducing benefits of those who will serve 20 or more years. Davis also thanked Rep. Stanford Bishop for his tireless support of concurrent receipt reform and sponsorship of concurrent receipt legislation (H.R. 333). Davis asked legislators and other VSO associations present at the meeting to support Rep. Bishop’s legislation. Davis noted that it has been several years since any progress has been made on this issue. Davis also asked for support for the Agent Orange/Blue Water Navy legislation (H.R.969).

Members can use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to weigh in on concurrent receipt, MCRMC retirement changes, and the Agent Orange/Blue Water Navy issue.

 

Senior Enlisted Testify Before MilCon/VA Appropriations Subcommittee
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, (Select) Ronald Green, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Michael Stevens, and their Army and Air Force counterparts summarized prepared testimony and ranked their respective quality-of-life concerns this week before the House Military Construction (MilCon), VA and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.

MCPON Stevens noted that ongoing discussion regarding possible changes to future pay and compensation has created an air of uncertainty. He stated that “health care (also) is an area that must be valued and protected for both Force readiness and quality of life.”

Sgt.Major of the Marine Corps (Select) Ronald Green noted that, due to end strength reductions, the Marine Corps has implemented a Staff Sergeant Retention Board for separating staff sergeants who have between 15 and 18 years of service. This board involuntarily separated 230 staff sergeants last year. The Marine Corps end strength will be reduced to 182,000 by the end of FY 2017.
NED Attends State of Coast Guard Speech
National Executive Director (NED) Thomas Snee attended Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft’s first State of the Coast Guard address. The Commandant mentioned the growing concern as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) faces a potential lapse in appropriation; unquestionably, the Coast Guard’s workforce, acquisition programs and daily operations will be adversely impacted in the event of a lapse. While the challenges of a shutdown are significant, the Commandant was optimistic the Coast Guard will pull through.