(Dec. 20, 2012) The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act which could pass Congress this week includes expanded space-available travel for the National Guard, but limits hikes to TRICARE fees below those requested by the Defense Department.
Space-available travel on DoD aircraft will be open to more reserve component members, gray area retirees, dependents and certain widows under a program to be authorized by the defense secretary.
This was a benefit pushed hard by NGAUS and opposed by the Pentagon. Guard supporters in Congress, namely Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who sponsored the initial legislation, which was written with the help of NGAUS, didn’t buy the Pentagon’s argument that expanding this benefit would cause undue expense.
Meanwhile, an attempt by the Defense Department to boost TRICARE fees went nowhere, again, thanks in part to the legislative lobbying efforts of NGAUS. The administration’s plan “went too far,” according to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Fee hikes will still take place, but will be tied to cost-of-living adjustments in military retiree pay. According to a report in Air Force Times, a 90-day mail-order supply of generic prescriptions would be free. Brand-name drugs would cost $13.
At the pharmacy, a 90-day supply of generic drugs will cost $5, while brand-name drugs will cost $17.
The NDAA also authorizes the continuation of TRICARE benefits for membes involuntarily separated from active-duty assignments.
Another provision of the NDAA supported by NGAUS is automatic promotions for a warrant officer 1 without the need for federal recognition. The bill also codifies the authority of the National Guard Bureau to establish the cost-effective transition assistance advisors for members deployed 180 days or longer.