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LEGISLATIVE NEWS THAT AFFECTS YOU Defense Act


The FY 2012 Defense Authorization Act caps future TRICARE Prime fee hikes and provides tools to ease force cuts but drops provisions to improve compensation for military survivors.


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n mid-December, House and Senate leaders worked out an agreement on the FY 2012 Defense Authorization Act


(H.R. 1540), and the bill was signed into law by the president. In a repeat of last year’s slow-rolling of the defense bill, the Senate delayed final action on the bill until December — more than two months into the new fiscal year. In contrast, the House finished the de- fense bill in May 2011. The Senate’s delay left House and Senate leaders only about 10 days to scramble to work out the thousands of differences between their respective ver- sions of the bill. Among other provisions, the final legislation: • authorizes a 1.6-percent military pay raise; • limits the percentage increase in the TRICARE Prime enrollment fee in any year to the percentage growth in military retired pay; • enhances authority to call up the re- serves for certain missions; • authorizes early retirement and volun- tary separation incentives to reduce the need for involuntary separations during the coming force reductions; • bars denial of reenlistment based on a medical condition that a medical board has evaluated and deemed not disqualify- ing for continued duty; • establishes the chief of the National Guard Bureau as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;


• provides $45 million in assistance for civilian schools in which military depen- dents are enrolled; • enhances the Yellow Ribbon Reintegra- tion Program for wounded warriors and their families; • safeguards reemployment rights for guardmembers ordered to full-time duty under state orders; • authorizes a death gratuity and related benefits for reservists who die during an authorized stay at their residence during or between successive days of inactive duty training; • requires the GAO to review the effec- tiveness of programs aimed at promoting military spouse employment; • requires the GAO to report on the pos- sible effects if Space-A travel eligibility were to be extended to certain survivors and gray-area reserve retirees; and • requires a DoD report on the cost of ex- panding the Homeowner Assistance Pro- gram to help more servicemembers who are “upside-down” on their mortgages. Unfortunately, the final legislation


did not retain the Senate-passed provi- sion to eliminate deduction of VA sur- vivor benefits from military Survivor Benefit Plan annuities.


See the chart on pages 34 and 35 for a summary of how the final defense bill’s contents compare with what the House and Senate had proposed. While the current budget climate dic- tated a shortage of new programs (and a


FEBRUARY 2012 MILITARY OFFICER 33


Protect Yourself Now! Congress will act soon on new proposals to cut troops’ pay, retirement, and health care. Please sign and mail the four tear-out letters between pages 36 and 37 and 48 and 49. If you’ve provided MOAA your spouse’s data, we’ve included letters for your spouse to sign as well.


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