Here are MOAA’s priorities for advocacy as the 117th Congress begins its work. Our focus remains on all eight of the uniformed services and their service-earned entitlements.
As protecting health care and service-earned benefits continues to be a challenge, MOAA will press forward in engaging Congress to shape outcomes in these vital areas.
There are steep hills before us. Our nation has a rising debt of more than $27 trillion, and a deficit of more than $3 trillion. In view of this, MOAA anticipates robust attempts to control federal budgets, reduce or eliminate unprogrammed expenditures, and reduce entitlements.
MOAA needs you to be at the ready to reach out to your legislators, and keep that engagement going as needed to make sure your voice is heard.
Our priorities may be updated, as warranted, during the next two years this Congress is in session. Together, we can succeed.
Recognize the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed the Landscape for Many of Our Priorities
OVERVIEW: We will assess programs relative to our priorities and ensure a credible accounting of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on servicemembers, families, survivors, and the government entities on which we rely to effect legislation related to these people and their concerns.
Protect the Value of the Military Health Care Benefit
OVERVIEW: Budget pressures, together with shortfalls in both the Military Health System’s readiness and benefit provision missions, led Congress to pass MHS reform legislation in the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). MOAA will not fight to reverse MHS reform laws aimed at addressing medical readiness issues, but we will not stand by if reforms turn into cost-cutting exercises.
Protect the MHS Pharmacy Benefit and Achieve Flexibility in TRICARE Pharmacy Copays
OVERVIEW: MHS reform legislation has eroded the value of the pharmacy benefit and poses a threat to MTF pharmacy access and zero copay prescription medications. Inflexibility in TRICARE pharmacy copays, which are governed by statute, requires beneficiaries to pay full copays even when TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery is unavailable or the prescription quantity cannot be filled.
Address Barriers to Accessing Care Within the MHS, Including TRICARE Coverage Gaps and Mental Health Care Access Challenges
OVERVIEW: TRICARE coverage policy is governed by statute and often requires legislation to remain aligned with new technologies and treatment protocols and benchmarks set by high quality commercial plans and other government payers. Access problems with mental health care, validated by an August 2020 DoD Inspector General report, are pronounced and must be addressed.
Achieve Concurrent Receipt of Service-Earned Retirement Pay and VA Disability Pay
OVERVIEW: Currently, those with a 40% VA rated disability and those forced to medically retire under Chapter 61 have their retirement pay offset for every dollar of VA disability received. The Congressional Budget Office estimates fixing concurrent receipt will cost $33 billion over 10 years. An incremental strategy to break up concurrent receipt into smaller cost brackets can gain progress.
Protect Family Support Programs, and Ensure Military-Provided Services (Housing, PCS, Child Care) are Affordable, Readily Available, and Meet Quality Standards
OVERVIEW: Programs and services for military and veteran families are often the first to see cuts to staffing, quality, and availability when government funding becomes tight. These benefits are essential to ensure servicemembers can focus on their mission. Military spouses play a vital role in a servicemember’s decision to stay in the military. When DoD prioritizes people first, it can retain a mission-ready all-volunteer force.
Reform the Presumptive Process to Support Veterans Claiming Service-Connected Disabilities for Toxic Exposures
OVERVIEW: When deploying to defend our nation, we pursue cutting edge weapons, tactics, techniques, and procedures to defeat our enemies. The consequences for servicemembers become apparent later, sometimes decades later. When Agent Orange, burn pits, and other sources of hazardous materials cause illnesses, the current practice is to place the burden of proof and record-keeping on veterans. Many are unable to prove their exposure. While research is done, ill veterans suffer without health care benefits. If veterans pass away early, their widows will not receive the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
Achieve Equity of Benefits, Protections and Administrative Support for Guard/Reserve Members Consistent With Their Active Duty Counterparts
OVERVIEW: Guard and Reserve troops can be activated with little notice. The COVID-19 pandemic response highlights why we need to ensure servicemembers are always ready. Along with this, the transition to the “total force” concept has transformed the National Guard and Reserve troops into an operational force that is an essential part of America’s national defense strategy. However, despite conducting the same duties as their active duty counterparts at increasing frequencies, the reserve component is not receiving the same support.
Sustain Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Foundational Missions and Services
OVERVIEW: Since the VA MISSION Act was signed into law in 2018, VHA has been aggressively pursuing implementing one of the most historic shifts in how VA will deliver care in the coming years — a system virtually untouched by major transformation in more than 25 years. Myriad challenges face the VA as it attempts to sustain its four health care missions (clinical, research, education and training, and emergency management response) and associated programs and services that have earned VHA its reputation as a high-quality health care system.
Through Expansion, Protect Arlington National Cemetery as an Option for Those Currently Eligible to Receive Full Military Honors
OVERVIEW: The Army secretary has approved draft eligibility changes for interment and inurnment at ANC to extend the life of the cemetery. Unfortunately, if eligibility changes are approved, many who were counting on in-ground burial at ANC will have to change plans.
Sustain Pay Raises for Servicemembers and COLA Raises for Retirees
OVERVIEW: Pay raises for servicemembers and COLA raises for retirees represent a commitment on behalf of our government to recognize their service and sacrifice, past and present. Budget challenges often focus on reducing such outlays to help fund weapons acquisition and other programs. No doubt such challenges will appear in coming years.
Improve Survivor Benefits
OVERVIEW: After the repeal of the widows tax in 2019, injustices remain on survivor issues.
Ensure the Coast Guard Receives Pay During a Government Shutdown
OVERVIEW: During a government shutdown, the USCG is not paid. Legislation such as The Pay Our Coast Guard Act would protect Coast Guard servicemembers’ pay in the event of a lapse in appropriations or a shutdown. For the 117th Congress, the act will require significant support for inclusion in the NDAA.