2014 saw several pieces of legislation that affected both active duty and veteran service members. The major issues addressed by Congress were:
- Both Houses of Congress rejected proposals to consolidate the Tricare Program, which would have included means testing and new or increased fees to access the Tricare system.
- Also in the medical benefits area, Congress imposed a $3.00 increase in pharmacy co-pays. Additionally, Congress authorized expansion of the mail-order pharmacy requirement to include the maintenance medications of all military retirees, except for prescriptions filled at a military treatment facility, beginning on October 1, 2015.
- Appropriated funding for the existing military commissary system was largely preserved, with both houses of Congress rejecting major decreases in commissary funding.
- Congress approved multi-year funding for mandatory veterans benefit programs, ensuring the delivery of benefits and services will not be interrupted in the event of an unexpected government shut-down.
- Congress also expanded the Special Needs Trust feature of the Survivor Benefit Plan, thereby ensuring that adult children of SBP recipients, with special needs, are able to shield SBP survivor annuity income from state taxation.
- With strong support from the House of Representatives, we were able to blunt the proposed five percent reduction in average housing costs covered by Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for currently serving military. Instead, a one percent reduction in covered housing costs will be implemented in 2016.
- And regrettably, currently serving military will not receive the full 1.8 percent pay raise in 2015 established by the Employee Cost Index and designed to maintain military pay comparability with private sector wages. Alternatively, a one percent raise will take effect on January 1, 2016.
What part of this list do you think was the most important issue? Are there any things you hope Congress will address in 2015? Tell us in the comments.