The Military Coalition Keeps Up the Fire on Concurrent Receipt
By: Mark Belinsky
The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of military and veteran service organizations representing a combined 5.5 million-plus membership, recently signed two important letters of support in the fight for concurrent receipt.
MOAA, a co-chair of the 34-member TMC, already has expressed its support for both measures:
- H.R. 333, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act, is sponsored by Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and essentially aims to fix the financial injustice of concurrent receipt for all retired personnel. It is a “Hail Mary” pass worth your support, addressing the unjust offset in one large piece of legislation with a price tag over $30 billion over 10 years.
- H.R. 5995, the Major Richard Star Act, is sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and is smaller (estimated at $2 billion over 10 years). The bill and its Senate companion, S. 3393, offer an incremental approach for concurrent receipt and initially address those forced to medically retire from a combat injury.
Parallel TMC efforts on these bills are critical to making long-overdue progress on concurrent receipt; the last progress on the issue was over a decade ago. The incremental approach of the Star Act presents a partial solution for concurrent receipt at a reduced cost, offering up categories into bite-size bills with each category serving as a milestone to reaching total repeal, a goal shared by MOAA and the TMC.
Each milestone makes the next one less costly and more likely for inclusion into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and puts us on the path for concurrent receipt for all. While MOAA prefers concurrent receipt for all, the incremental approach affords the opportunity for a partial success, so we come away with one victory and a reduced cost for the next victories.
The Road Map to Concurrent Receipt
The incremental approach to concurrent receipt is really five milestones, each providing relief for a different group of veterans:
- Those who retire with a 50% VA disability rating or higher. This was achieved in 2004.
- Those forced to medically retire because they were hurt in combat. This would be addressed by H.R. 5995 and S. 3393.
- Those forced to medically retire because they were hurt on duty in non-combat incidents.
- Those who retire with 40% VA disability ratings.
- Those who retire with 30% VA disability ratings.
Applying Lessons Learned
The repeal of the “widows tax” was a hard-fought victory for MOAA last year. Keys to that victory were compelling stories combined with the unified advocacy efforts of the 34 TMC organizations. Throughout the NDAA process, there were many elected officials who signed up to fully support repeal of the widows tax but warned the $5.7 billion price tag did not have funding and would therefore be unattainable. It was the overwhelmingly long list of co-sponsors that successfully convinced Congress to finally waive the “pay for” rule and move forward with the repeal.
Ask your representative to support both H.R. 333 and H.R. 5995, and please add your compelling story to the “Call To Action” message. We additionally ask you to call your representative. Recent MOAA analysis indicates that in the current environment, a phone call followed up with an e-mail makes the greatest impact when an in-person visit is not possible.
Subject: More Than 3 Dozen Military Hospitals to Stop Treating Military Retirees… (military.com, by Amy Bushatz)
Military families and retirees receiving care through 38 military hospitals nationwide will soon be forced to go off-base instead, and some pharmacies at those hospitals will stop providing drugs to those not on active duty, Military.com has learned.
A 12-page memo, reviewed by Military.com, was sent to the commanders of 50 military treatment facilities, or MTFs, targeted for changes. It details for commanders the impacts of a planned MTF restructuring, the subject of an upcoming report to Congress. It also includes a letter to commanders explaining upcoming changes, signed by Lt. Gen. Ronald Pace, who directs the Defense Health Agency, and provides communications guidance to public affairs personnel.
The changes are a part of a review of military hospital operations and a system consolidation under the Defense Health Agency ordered by Congress in 2016. Aimed at increasing a focus on military readiness, the consolidation includes a plan to cut about 18,000 uniformed medical personnel and increase focus on active-duty support.
But to do so, the hospitals must cull the number of family members and retirees to whom they currently offer care. The report to Congress detailed in the memo lays out the Pentagon’s path for those changes.
“DoD must adapt the military health system to focus more on readiness of the combined force, while continuing to meet our access to health care obligations for active duty families, retirees and their families,” the Feb. 3 memo states. “With a challenging array of threats around the world, we need our military medical facilities to keep combat forces healthy and prepare our medical personnel to support them.”
The memo does not include the locations of the 50 affected MTFs, or a specific timeline for the changes. It’s also unclear how feedback from lawmakers might impact the current transition plan.
Under a section of the document noted as “not for public release,” the memo lays out a proposed plan to “reduce operations at 48 facilities and to expand or recapitalize operations at two others.”
At 38 of those 50 MTFs, “DoD recommends reducing the scope of operations to active duty and occupational health services only, while in many cases maintaining pharmacy services for all beneficiaries,” it states. “It is estimated that approximately 200,000 Military Health System beneficiaries who receive care at the MTFs identified for reduction in operations will transition to civilian providers” in the Tricare network.
That means that some of those facilities may stop offering pharmacy support for users not on active duty. On-base pharmacies are currently the only way for all Tricare beneficiaries, including elderly Tricare for Life enrollees, to receive no-cost, same-day medications.
Some military retirees and their families will also see increased out-of-pocket costs, the memo notes, since care received off-base by those users require copays.
“Some beneficiaries may see some increased out-of-pocket costs. Retirees and their families who receive care at MTFs generally do not incur out-of-pocket copays for that care. When these beneficiaries receive care from Tricare’s civilian network, they will incur co-payments,” it states.
The memo notes that no users will be cut from the MTF until they have a civilian provider from their community in place.
“Affected beneficiaries will continue to have access to quality health care, and we will not transition any beneficiary to the civilian Tricare provider network until we are confident they have a provider,” it states. “DOD intends to implement these changes with a careful, deliberate approach, maintaining access to high quality care for MHS beneficiaries while sustaining readiness … As patients shift to civilian providers, DoD will monitor network performance and slow or halt transitions as necessary to assure continued access to care.”
Tricare officials were unable to provide a timeline for rollout of the plan or a list of the 50 impacted locations, citing a need to delay comment until the report is delivered to Congress. That report is expected to be delivered as early as next week.
“Until the Defense Department’s Report to Congress … is approved and released, the details in the report are still subject to change,” Kevin Dwyer, a Tricare spokesman said in a statement. “For this reason, we are not yet able to discuss the details. As Lieutenant General Place said in his letter to the commanders of our military hospitals and clinics, we recognized there will be concern, and many patients and staff will want to know as soon as possible what this means for them. Nothing is changing immediately, and all changes will be made in a deliberate and responsible fashion. The Department’s obligation to our patients has not changed.”
NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS
Major “MOAA National issues” (website):
THE FOLLOWING FEBRUARY 2020 MOAA NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS THAT BECAME EFFECTIVE 1 JANUARY 2020 OR LATER THIS YEAR; AS WELL AS CONTINUING ISSUES:
1. THE “WIDOWS TAX HAS BEEN REPEALED: The Widows Tax (go to MOAA National for specific information) has been repealed by Congress & signed off on by President Trump. The Offset between the VA compensation to Widows and SBP will be phased in over the next 3 years possibly beginning as early as January2021. (See notes in Surviving Spouse Info on Page 4, (Editor)).
2. STILL PENDING: A bill to amend Title 10, US Code (Federal H333).RESULTSINTENDED ARE: Bill Before Congress would allow military retirees also receiving VA Compensation of less than 50% to receive both VA & Military compensation. Again, contact your elected officials to know your support position on this important Bill.
3. PAY INCREASES PASSED BY CONGRESS & IN EFFECT 1 JANUARY 2020: Military Active Duty, Reserves, and Retirees received pay increases effective 1 January 2020. Please go to MOAA National to read the very positive results.
4. TRICARE CHANGES FOR 2020: Still ongoing. There are too many items to list, but essentially every category of military active duty family & retires costs for participation are scheduled to increase beginning this year. The Co-Pays for pharmacies used off base (civilian) are expected to increase by 40% or more. Further, DoD with the services has already changed their medicine formularies. Many you may now are receiving might no longer be available at military medical pharmacies. Ask you physician. Please read for your own planning purposes all the information on the MOAA web-site. (If you do not have access to Internet, contact a friend or relative to go to this information. Web site is listed at top of Page 1. (Editor))
STAY UP-TO-DATE by regularly checking the MOAA NATIONAL WEBSITE for MOAA’s actions on these and other INITIATIVES FOR 2019 AND NOW INTO 2020.
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