Saturday, December 18, 2010

Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Legislative Update


For one year, AUSA has been fighting to get Congress to pass a long-term fix to the scheduled cut to rates paid to physicians who treat seniors and the military. We scored a partial victory when Congress cleared a measure that will provide a one-year extension of Medicare/TRICARE physician rates. The legislation freezes current payment rates until Dec. 31, 2011, averting a 25 percent cut that was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

The bill would be fully paid for by a change in the health care reform law. A provision in the law provides tax credits to help individuals and families afford insurance on state-run insurance exchanges when they take effect in 2014. If a tax credit recipient misstates income, or if it changes over the course of the year, he or she has to pay back part of the subsidy — up to $250 for an individual or $400 for families. The “doc fix” bill passed week replaces that flat repayment with a sliding-scale structure, requiring smaller repayments at lower incomes and dramatically increasing the maximum amount for high earners.

AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition will work closely with the 112th Congress to develop a long-term solution to this perennial Medicare/TRICARE problem that affects seniors and the military population.


The controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision included in the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill caused the bill to go down in flames in the Senate last week.

The Senate voted 57-40 in favor of cloture, three votes short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

After the vote, Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., expressed hope that the defense bill could be passed and become law. He and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., are expected to meet soon to discuss the next move.

Levin also said he believes it is "vitally important to our national security to pass a defense authorization act. I will continue to explore paths that could lead to that goal, though given the limited amount of time left in this Congress, that may be too high a mountain to climb."

While the long-term continuing resolution passed by the House last week guards against some of the worst effects of having no authorization bill, Congress must still find a way to get the bill passed. There is no way a continuing resolution could contain all of the critical authorities needed for our military and their families.

We are still holding out hope that some form of the defense bill will be passed. It is expected that the 111th Congress will adjourn at the end this week. Therefore, it is critical that you add your voice to ours. Go to the AUSA website,, click on “Legislative Agenda’” then click on “Contact Congress”, and type in your zip code beside “Elected Officials”. Send your members the AUSA-suggested letter “Pass the FY 2011 Defense Authorization Bill Now!”


Last week, the House passed a $1.09 trillion fiscal 2011 spending bill that would keep the federal government’s fiscal 2011 discretionary funding at the same level that was provided for fiscal 2010, but would shift billions of dollars in funds.

House appropriators used the stalled fiscal 2010 Military Construction-VA spending bill which had previously passed in the Senate, as the vehicle for the long-term continuing resolution, a move that could save time in moving the measure through parliamentary steps in both chambers.

The measure would provide $513 billion for the Department of Defense and $75.2 billion for military construction and veterans. It also includes $159 billion for war operations in Afghanistan and Iraq . The measure carries no earmarks and would freeze federal pay, except for that of military personnel, for two years.

The bill includes provisions that would fund a 1.4 percent military pay raise. It also includes additional funding for basic allowance for housing and subsistence; additional funds for the defense health program to address cost increases; and funding to upgrade schools on DoD bases that are owned and operated by local education authorities.

The bill now moves to the Senate. Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, wants to replace it with a fiscal 2011 omnibus package that would include the text of all 12 annual spending bills.

It is far from certain that the Senate can pass an omnibus and it is unlikely that they will pass the House’s continuing resolution without making any changes.

Note to Congress: The 11th hour is almost up!

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