Unfinished Business: The FY16 NDAA

By: Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

With all the focus recently on the election and the new Administration taking over in January, 2017, it’s easy to overlook an important piece of unfinished business from 2016–the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The House and Senate each passed versions of the bill, which sets policies and funding levels for the Department of Defense, earlier this year. However, they were unable to agree to a compromise version before leaving town in October for the campaign.

Now that the election is over, Congress will be returning to Washington with only a few weeks left to pass the NDAA before the end of the year. We’ll be watching them closely and encouraging them to keep military families in mind as they try to find a compromise.

We call on Congress to pass an NDAA that:

  • Compensates service members fairly. Under law, service members should receive an annual pay increase equal to the Employment Cost Index (ECI). This year that would equate to a 2.1% raise. For the past three years, military pay raises have been below the ECI. We ask Congress to pass a 2.1% military pay increase, which was included in the House version of the bill.
  • Keeps health care affordable. We oppose provisions in the House bill which would impose new fees for family health care on service members who enter the military after 2017, as well as increased enrollment fees for retiree families and increases in catastrophic caps, both of which were included in the Senate version of the bill.
  • Preserves BAH. We strongly oppose provisions in the Senate version of the bill which would slash housing allowances for dual service couples and service members who choose to live with other service members. We have asked Congress to leave those provisions out of the final bill and preserve BAH in its current form.
  • Protects the commissary benefit. The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is making changes to the way it operates, including adopting variable pricing and introducing private label products, in an attempt to save money. We’re concerned about the effect these changes will have on the commissary benefit and the savings families see when they shop there. For this reason, we’ve asked Congress to include Congressional oversight of these changes in the final bill, to make sure DeCA has the resources and expertise needed to implement changes effectively and without endangering the value of the commissary benefit.
  • Cares for survivors. Congress must find a way to extend the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), which partially addresses the unfair deduction of VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from survivors receiving Survivor Benefit Plan benefits. SSIA is set to expire in October, 2017. While both the House and Senate bills extend the program (the House for one year, the Senate for ten), neither includes a funding increase. We ask Congress to look at the issue again to make sure our survivors receive the full benefits they are entitled to.

We all know that military service comes with unique challenges. We call on Congress to pass an NDAA that ensures military families have the resources they need to meet those challenges. Our service members and families deserve nothing less.

Posted November 15, 2016


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