Senate Panel OKs Lower Raise, But Opposes Tricare Hikes

(NAVY TIMES 11 JUN 13) … Rick Maze

The House and Senate disagree about the size of the 2014 military pay raise but are joined in opposition to yet another plan from the Defense Department to raise Tricare fees.

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel endorsed an Obama administration proposal that would cap the 2014 basic pay increase at 1 percent.

The House Armed Services Committee approved a 1.8 percent raise last week, creating a difference that will have to be worked out before a final bill passes.

The 1.8 percent raise matches average private-sector pay growth last year, but the Defense Department has pushed for a smaller raise, arguing that when tax-free allowances and other benefits are included, military compensation already exceeds average private-sector wages.

On Tricare fees, the personnel panel , headed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., rejected the entire Defense Department plan to establish or increase deductibles, fees and copayments, mainly for working-age retirees, just as the House Armed Services Committee did last week.

It is unclear at this point that Congress would change course by adding any of the Tricare fee hikes to the 2014 defense budget, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the personnel panel’s ranking Republican member, said he would try when the bill reached the full Senate Armed Services Committee later this week to get at least some of the Pentagon’s fee hikes into the bill.

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