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A COLA Hike for Some, Transgender Coverage for Others

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

There’s some good news for service members serving in Germany and Turkey. They’ll see a cost of living increase by as much as 100 percent in some cases, starting with their Feb. 15 paycheck, according to Military.com.

Army officials said COLA is going up in Germany because goods and services here cost more than they do in the United States, as revealed by data collected from recent surveys asking military members where they shop and how much they buy on base versus off base,” Military.com reported Monday.

The Defense Travel Management Office has a COLA calculator here.

The Pentagon wants TRICARE to start covering hormone treatment for those who suffer from gender dysphoria, which occurs when individuals don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. The Defense Department published a proposed rule change in the Federal Register Monday that would make treatment available to service members and their dependents:

This rulemaking proposes to remove the categorical exclusion on treatment of gender dysphoria. This proposed change will permit coverage of all non-surgical medically necessary and appropriate care in the treatment of gender dysphoria, consistent with the program requirements applicable for treatment of all mental or physical illnesses. Surgical care remains prohibited by statute at 10 U.S.C. 1079(a)(11).

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told Stars and Stripes newspaper he was open to the change. “I do not believe that the military should be an experimental laboratory for social issues. But I also believe you focus on capability, getting the job done, protecting the country and don’t worry so much about a person’s color, gender, whatever it is,” Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told the newspaper. “That’s what counts and beyond that we’ll have to look at the details of what they are proposing.”

Before the White House submits President Obama’s 2017 budget request to Congress next week, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association wants to preempt any effort by the administration to limit workers’ compensation benefits for federal and postal employees disabled by job-related injuries or illnesses.

Previous budgets have included Labor Department proposals to cut benefits from 66.7 percent to 50 percent once the disabled worker reaches retirement age.

In a letter to Obama Tuesday, NARFE National President Richard G. Thissen pointed out that the people who could be affected by the proposal include medical professionals combating Ebola and civilians who volunteer to serve overseas during humanitarian emergencies or combat. “The previous budget proposals from DOL would do real harm to those who not only risk, but actually sacrifice, their lives or their physical well-being in service to this country,” Thissen wrote.

He cited an October 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office that concluded: “Reducing FECA benefits could have a substantial impact over time on individuals who cannot work and may have limited options to replace income in response to benefit reductions.” 

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