Sharing YOUR Voice

On Wednesday, March 26 we testified before the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) as part of a panel with our colleagues from The Military Coalition (TMC). Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director, will represent the Association. Her prepared remarks will focus on enhancing family programs, protecting the commissary benefit, and disparities in survivor benefits.

However, our full testimony for the record includes so much more – 30+ pages of detailed information outlining the support military families need as we draw down. We address the FY15 budget with several questions about how the proposals will work. We emphasize the importance of ending sequestration – the mandatory budget cuts which aren’t even accounted for in the FY15 budget. We fight for wounded families and their caregivers. We rally behind the educational needs of our military kids. We address how best to support active duty families, families in transition, and the future force.

These are complicated issues with no easy solutions. We encourage you to become informed and engaged. Read our testimony. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for infographs that visualize these issues. Share your comments and concerns with us via social media, on our website, or write to us at Info@MilitaryFamily.org.

Executive Summary

The United States military is the most capable fighting force in the world. Over more than a decade of war, service members and their families never failed to answer the call, gladly sacrificing in order to protect our Nation. They made these sacrifices trusting that our government would provide them with resources to keep them ready. Recent national fiscal challenges have left military families confused and concerned about whether the programs, resources, and benefits contributing to their strength, resilience, and readiness will remain available to support them and be flexible enough to address emerging needs. The Department of Defense (DoD) must provide the level of programs and resources to meet this standard. Sequestration weakens its ability to do so. Service members and their families have kept trust with America, through over 13 years of war, with multiple deployments and separations. Unfortunately, that trust is being tested. The Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) budget proposal put forward by the Administration will undermine military family readiness in fundamental ways, by cutting families’ purchasing power and forcing them to bear more of their health care costs. At the same time, looming cuts mandated by sequestration threaten the programs and services they rely on for support. Our Association makes the recommendations in this statement in the name of supporting the readiness of military families and maintaining the effectiveness of the all volunteer force. We ask the Nation to keep the trust with military families and not try to balance budget shortfalls from the pockets of those who serve.

We ask Congress to:

Let the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) do its job in evaluating compensation, including health care, Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and commissaries, holistically.

As you evaluate the proposals submitted by DoD, we ask you to consider the cumulative impact on military families’ purchasing power and financial well-being, as well as their effects on the morale and readiness of the all volunteer force now and in the future. We ask you to:

  • Reject budget proposals that threaten military family financial well-being as a way to save money for the government.
  • Keep military pay commensurate with service and aligned with private sector wages.
  • Oppose shifting health care costs to active duty family members. We especially ask you to oppose any TRICARE change that will create a barrier to military families’ access to behavioral health care.
  • Protect the 30 percent savings military families receive when shopping at the commissary by continuing the annual appropriation to support the system at its current level. Commissaries are part of compensation and provide important savings for military families.
  • Ask DoD how the reduction in BAH payments will impact the contracts that have been negotiated with the privatized housing contractors. Will this result in fewer services, reduced maintenance or families paying over and above their BAH for their privatized housing?

We especially ask Congress to end sequestration, which places a disproportionate burden on our Nation’s military to reduce the deficit.

We have addressed the immediate and long term impacts of the proposed FY15 budget on military families. Our Association also asks Congress to make improving and sustaining the programs and resources necessary to keep military families ready a national priority. We ask Congress to:

  • Provide oversight to ensure DoD and the individual Services are supporting families of all components by meeting the standards for deployment support, reintegration, financial readiness, and family health in Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1342.22. Fund appropriately at all levels. Special attention needs to be paid to the flexibility for surge capabilities.
  • Join with DoD to help civilian communities realize their role in supporting service members and families is ongoing, even as service members transition to veteran status.
  • Continue funding the Yellow Ribbon program and stress the need for greater coordination of resources supporting Reserve Component families.
  • Ensure families of all seven Uniformed Services have timely access to high quality, affordable health care and a robust TRICARE benefit including preventive health care services.
  • Instruct DoD to ensure future TRICARE policy changes are thoroughly analyzed before being implemented with the impact on beneficiary access to the medical standard of care as a top consideration.
  • Ensure military families’ access to the medical and non-medical counseling they need to recover from the stress of long years of war.
  • Ensure TRICARE makes the process for accessing specialty care more flexible and streamlined to address the unique aspects of military life without having families pay more out-of-pocket.
  • Instruct TRICARE to enhance the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) program’s utility to military families by ensuring it covers the products and services families need. Extend ECHO eligibility for one year following separation to provide more time for families to obtain services in their communities or through employer-sponsored insurance.
  • Continue funding DoD’s Spouse Education & Career Opportunities (SECO) programs. Make military spouse preferences and hiring authorities non-discretionary. Expand outreach and eligibility for the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) to spouses of all of the Uniformed Services to facilitate better utilization and access.
  • Ensure adequate funding for military child care programs, including child care fee assistance programs.
  • Ensure appropriate and timely funding of Impact Aid through the Department of Education(DoEd) and restore funds to the Impact Aid federal properties program.
  • Continue to authorize DoD Impact Aid for schools educating large numbers of military children and restore full funding to Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools and the DoDEA Grant Program.
  • Help families in crisis by funding ongoing tracking of military family suicides. Ensure Family Advocacy programs are funded and resourced appropriately to help families heal and aid in the prevention of child and domestic abuse.
  • Correct inequities in Survivor benefits by eliminating the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP); allowing payment of the SBP annuity into a Special Needs Trust to preserve disabled beneficiaries’ eligibility for income based support programs; and ensuring SBP annuities for a reservist who dies while performing active duty training are calculated using the same criteria as for a member who dies while on active duty.
  • Ensure better cooperation and accountability between DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at the highest levels in the support of transitioning wounded, ill and injured service members and caregivers. The lack of a seamless transition between agencies still exists and must be corrected.
  • Exempt the Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL) from income taxes, enhance marketing of SCAADL to the eligible population, and add an electronic application process to reduce the burden of completing SCAADL paperwork.
  • Encourage DoD and the VA to develop a solution to continue in vitro fertilization (IVF) coverage for veterans and military retirees facing service connected infertility.
  • Require DoD and VA to regularly assess the unmet needs of caregivers and develop programs to address their evolving requirements.

 

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