There will be no move by Congress to reduce the military retiree COLA for 2015 by 1 percent — at least for another year — as part of an agreement reached on the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act by House and Senate armed services committee members.
The provision was previously included as a cost-saving measure in the NDAA bill and targeted working-age retirees under age 62, drawing heavy criticism from military associations and veterans advocacy groups.
The bill “exempts those who first join military service prior to January 1, 2016, from the reduced cost of living adjustment (COLA) applicable to military retired pay made by section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Public Law 113-67), as amended by section 2 of Public Law 113-82,” according to a fact sheet on the website of Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (D).
This means that anyone who enters the military over the next year and remaining for their entire career would be exempt from the provision, which would then go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
The House passed the $585 billion defense bill on Thursday by a vote of 300-119. The bill moves onto the Senate, where it is expected to be approved next week before the end of the lame-duck session.
Other notable provisions in the bill affecting active duty troops and retirees include:
- Reduces the rate of increase in the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to provide that BAH will cover 1 percent less than average out-of-pocket costs for housing, while ensuring that no service member will experience a reduction in BAH.
- Authorizes a $3.00 increase in pharmacy copays for non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries who fill prescriptions outside of military treatment facilities; requires that non-formulary prescriptions be available through the national mail-order program; and requires that non-generic prescription maintenance medications be refilled through military treatment facility pharmacies or the national mail-order pharmacy program.
- Increases pharmacy copays for non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries who fill prescriptions outside of military treatment facilities; requires that non-formulary prescriptions be available through the national mail-order program; and requires that non-generic prescription maintenance medications be refilled through military treatment facility pharmacies or the national mail-order pharmacy program.
- Authorizes funding to support the President’s alternative pay plan establishing a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise for members of the uniformed services in pay grades O-6 and below.
- Authorizes the payment of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity to a special needs trust for certain disabled dependent children.
- Authorizes $25.0 million in impact aid for assistance to local educational agencies impacted by the enrollment of dependent children of military members and DOD civilian employees.
- Authorizes $5.0 million in impact aid for schools with large numbers of children of military members and DOD civilian employees with severe disabilities.
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to commission an independent study of the mental, behavioral, and psychological health challenges facing U.S. Special Operations Forces and the effectiveness of U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) Preservation of the Force and Families Program in addressing such issues.
- Transfers $14.8 million to the USSOCOM Behavioral Health and Warrior Care Management Program for additional behavioral health programs and $4.0 million to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office to support efforts to reinforce suicide prevention efforts in support of members of special operations forces and their families.
- Authorizes FY 2015 active-duty end strengths for the Army of 490,000; the Navy, 323,600; the Marine Corps, 184,100; and the Air Force, 312,980. These end strengths are consistent with the President’s request.
To read a complete list of all provisions contained in the agreement for fiscal year 2015, go here.
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