At a Glance: This Year’s Big Wins for Military Families

Military families, we have your back. And today, we are celebrating some major wins, now that the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (FY18 NDAA) has been signed by the President. From health care and education for military children to pay raises and reimbursements that help the entire military family, we have a lot to be thankful for:

Pay Raises: For the second year in a row, service members will get a 2.4% pay raise – which is consistent with the Employment Cost Index (ECI), as required by law. The three years prior, the pay raise fell below ECI. This is a big win!

Pediatric Concurrent Hospice: We are thankful Congress fixed a glaring TRICARE coverage gap. Current TRICARE policy made it so terminally ill military children couldn’t get treatments that could cure them, while also receiving hospice care. This policy is out of step with today’s standard of pediatric care and Medicaid and commercial coverage policies. But more importantly, it forced military families to make gut wrenching decisions for their children in their time of greatest need. The new law means TRICARE will cover hospice and health care services or hospitalization for the same condition for beneficiaries younger than 21.

Plans to Improve Pediatric Care: The Defense Health Agency is now required to report to Congress on their plans to improve pediatric care across several identified areas. Earlier this year, our Association contributed to the Defense Health Board’s (DHB) assessment of pediatric care within the Military Health System. The resulting DHB report highlighted several deficiencies and made recommendations to improve health care for military children.

Reimbursement for State Licensure and Certification Costs: Once this provision is implemented, service members can get reimbursed up to $500 for a spouse’s expenses for obtaining licensing or certification in another state because of a PCS move. So far the program is only set for 5 years, but there’s a report due a year before it expires that we’re hoping will prove its worth and make the case for it to continue.

Grant Program that Helps Military Kids: We were thrilled that this year’s NDAA permanently authorizes the DoDEA grant program, which supports programs that enhance military kids’ educational achievement. Ten years ago, the NDAA authorized the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA) to award grants to public school districts serving large numbers of military-connected children. These grants have been used to fund $400 million worth of programs supporting students’ academic achievement and help children cope with the challenges of military life. For the past several years, Congress has extended the authorization for the grant program but just for one additional year… but now the program will never expire.

Permanent Extension of the Special Survivors Indemnity Allowance (SSIA): The Special Survivors Indemnity Allowance, created in the FY08 NDAA, was permanently extended with cost-of-living increases. Our Association appreciates the effort Congress has made to save SSIA, but we hope they will continue to work toward the elimination the SBP-DIC offset altogether.

The holidays are a time of celebration, and we’re certainly celebrating these wins for military families and are proud to have played a role in these changes. Next step: we’ll be watching as Congress passes defense appropriations on the actual spending before any money is disbursed.

Posted December 5, 2017


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