By: Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret)

A new report outlines 121 options to reduce our nation's deficit - could you be affected?

Most likely you would be, if Congress implemented any variation of the options provided by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a December report. There are many suggestions on the list that would affect servicemembers, military retirees and their families. Among the options are the introduction of TRICARE for Life fees and reductions in basic allowance for housing.

While ideas like these have been pitched before, elected leaders had deemed them untenable as many were based on significant reductions to benefits most Americans and their families value. But Congress is increasingly running out of options.

[ACT NOW: While the CBO report covers the next 10 years, it is important for you to connect with your members of Congress now. Please visit our Legislative Action Center to send a message, and be ready for recurring updates; enter your information and click "submit" to see the letter and a list of your legislators.]

The national debt is reaching critical mass and climbing, fueled by continued deficit spending. The CBO report cites the FY 2018 federal budget deficit totaled $779 billion, raising our nation's debt to 78 percent of our Gross Domestic Product.

Nearly every legislative engagement on Capitol Hill now prompts, “How do you propose to pay for this new spending required in the bill?” Congress has to answer this same question for bills they support. The inherent expectation is for the funding to come from the same department or program the bill supports. 

This is how we ended up with TRICARE beneficiaries paying for the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (a DoD example); it is why the bill to support Blue Water Navy veterans includes proposed increases to VA Home Loan fees as the pay-for (a VA example).

MOAA has not supported funding strategies that pit one group of military and veterans against another as a means to pay for service earned benefits - rather we support funding from the treasury so costs could be shared by all.

MOAA's President wrote about the pay-for challenge in his 2018 review and we acknowledge this to be a continuing problem for 2019. This leads to three focus points:

  • CBO options to reduce the deficit may gain traction as the administration and Congress wrestle with a pay-for mandate.
  • Military pay, benefits, and healthcare are often seen as funding sources for other programs.
  • MOAA will continue to oppose putting the pay-for burden on the backs of beneficiaries.

With these points in mind, we draw your attention to seven of the 121 options.  These are areas previously eyed for funding, and since they are in the CBO report, we want to address them now. We will provide a more detailed analysis on each of these and others over the coming months leading up to April when we storm Capitol Hill. We will also call on your help to ensure specific benefits do not become targets in the new Congress. The seven options if implemented would:

  • Cap increases in basic military pay for military service members
  • Reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing to 80 percent of average housing costs
  • Introduce enrollment fees under TRICARE For Life
  • Introduce minimum out-of-pocket requirement under TRICARE For Life
  • Increase premiums for Medicare Part B
  • Modify TRICARE enrollment fees and cost sharing for working-age military retirees
  • End VA's Individual Unemployability payments to disabled veterans at the full retirement age for Social Security

As you can see, servicemembers, veterans and their families would be affected. Please act now. Click here and send a message to Congress. These benefits must be protected.