Senate bill includes a 1 percent pay boost for service members.
Members of the military would receive a 1.8 percent pay increase in 2014 under legislation the House passed on Friday.
Lawmakers approved the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a pay boost for service members next year. The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved its Defense spending bill, which also recommends a 1.8 percent pay increase for military personnel. The appropriations legislation does not provide money for a civilian pay raise in 2014.
President Obama proposed a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel in 2014, which is also what the current Senate defense authorization bill recommends. If the Senate sticks with the 1 percent pay raise, then lawmakers will have to reach consensus during conference committee on the final amount to give service members. Current law mandates a 1.8 percent boost for service members for 2014; the formula for determining service members’ annual pay increases is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Employment Cost Index and the growth in private-sector wages.
The House defense authorization bill also rejected most of the administration’s proposed increases to TRICARE fees for retirees and other changes to the military’s health care system. “The committee has already put TRICARE on a sustainable path through reforms in several recent NDAAs,” stated a summary of the bill.
Congress has modestly increased some TRICARE enrollment fees and prescription drug costs for retirees during the past few years but has opposed the White House’s more aggressive proposals, including establishing an enrollment fee for TRICARE-for-Life beneficiaries, who are aged 65 and older.
The legislation also includes a provision that would enable military retirees who are losing access to TRICARE Prime in October to stay in that health care plan. The provision, originally stand-alone legislation sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., would allow affected TRICARE Prime enrollees to make a one-time decision to remain in the more affordable health insurance plan instead of moving to the program’s fee-for-service option. The Defense Department is reducing the number of Prime service areas to save money and will automatically switch 171,000 TRICARE Prime beneficiaries to the TRICARE Standard option on Oct. 1. The change affects beneficiaries who live more than 40 miles from a military clinic, hospital or Base Closure and Realignment site -- about 3 percent of the current 5.3 million TRICARE Prime enrollees.
House lawmakers also agreed to an amendment, offered by Reps. John Larson, D-Conn., and Tom Rooney, R-Fla., that provides access to behavioral health treatment, including applied behavior analysis, under TRICARE for children with developmental disabilities.
The Senate fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill on Thursday now heads to the floor after the Armed Service Committee approved the legislation on Thursday.
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