FY 2018 Defense Bill Update

National VFW - 7/17/2017

-- Base Pay: The House recommends a 2.4-percent increase to base pay; Senate, 2.1 percent. The VFW supports the House recommendation. An all-volunteer force that has borne a two-front, nonstop war for 16-plus years deserves nothing less than pay parity with their civilian counterparts.
-- Housing Allowance: The Senate recommends cutting the housing allowance for dual-military couples. Currently, both military members receive it at the with-dependent rate. The Senate proposes paying the with-dependent rate for one spouse, but paying a single rate to the other. The VFW rejects this recommendation. Both individuals serve. There should be no penalty just because they are married.
-- TRICARE: The Senate proposes removing a grandfather provision approved last year that shields retirees receiving TRICARE benefits from incurring future cost increases associated with restructuring the Military Health System. Under current law, increases would only impact those who enter the military after Jan. 1, 2018. The VFW rejects removing the grandfather clause as well as any other TRICARE fee increases for retirees.
-- TRICARE Pharmacy Copayments: The Senate proposes increasing non-military pharmacy copayments to help generate funding for military readiness accounts and quality of life programs. The VFW rejects this proposal. Instead of slowing the growth of military compensation or forcing military retirees and families to pay more, the VFW suggests Congress re-evaluate federal spending caps and eliminate sequestration.
-- Widow’s Tax Update: It is a longstanding VFW goal to eliminate the dollar-for-dollar offset that prevents some 60,000 surviving spouses of military retirees from receiving VA-issued Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and DOD-issued Survivor Benefits Plan payments. The House is proposing a permanent extension of a somewhat helpful Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), whereas the Senate would increase TRICARE Pharmacy co-pays for over-65 beneficiaries, with hopes that the revenue might be used to offset the Widow’s Tax. The House SSIA extension is appreciated, but the VFW’s goal is to eliminate the dollar-for-dollar offset, not to supplant it with a monthly SSIA payment of $310, which along with the offset, still amounts to nearly $12,000 in lost annual income to every surviving spouse of a military retiree.