MOAA noted the Senate’s FY 2018 NDAA proposal, submitted earlier this year, included a provision to raise TRICARE pharmacy fees. We immediately engaged, and many of you contacted your members of Congress to share dissatisfaction with these increases. Despite those eff orts, fee increases likely will be included in the fi nal version of the NDAA for the president’s signature.

demnity Compensation (DIC). In many instances, a survivor’s en- tire SBP benefi t might be wiped out from the tax. DoD estimates 67,000 sur-

vivors are affected by the wid- ows tax. The provision’s controversy is

twofold: It fails to make contin- ued progress on eliminating the off set, and lawmakers are fund- ing this permanent extension using higher TRICARE phar- macy copayments. In essence, the broader group of TRICARE benefi ciaries are being tasked to pay for this benefi t. Having said that, we have to

give sincere thanks to House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) for his work on the issue and for ensuring funds generated through the increased pharmacy copayments stay with benefi ciaries in some measure. Permanently extending the allowance relieves some of the anxiety military survivors have experienced during previous funding challenges.

COULD DOD NOMINEE CHANGE GI BILL TRANSFERABILITY? The Post-9/11 GI Bill has been a signifi cant retention tool for the military with the inclusion of a transferability option that incentivizes servicemembers to stay on active duty longer so they can take advantage of transferring the benefi t to their family. Now, DoD’s incoming principal deputy under secre- tary of defense, Anthony Kurta, is telling Congress that, if he

‘ When asked by Congress whether DoD would change the transferability rules, Kurta said yes, the ability to transfer benefi ts will be limited to servicemembers with less than 16 years of total service.’

is confi rmed, he would like to make servicemembers stay on active duty longer before being able to transfer the benefi t. When the Post-9/11 GI Bill originally was contemplated as a new benefi t in 2008, MOAA proposed that the transferability option not trigger until the 10th year of service, thus encouraging career service. DoD proposed transferability at six years, with an additional requirement of four years, upon which Congress fi - nally settled. Either way, the end result incentivized retention up to 10 years. When asked by Congress whether DoD would change transferability rules, Kurta said yes, the ability to transfer benefi ts will be limited to ser- vicemembers with less than 16 years of total service. Kurta sees the change as an important step to preserve the distinction of transferability as a retention incentive. Career servicemem- bers who earned the benefi t will still be able to share it with their family members while they con- tinue to serve. Currently, servicemembers

can transfer their benefi ts after only six years of service if they agree to serve an additional four

years on active duty after they execute the transfer. Kurta ap- pears to be assuming that once a servicemember reaches the 16-year mark, they already are committed to completing the last four so they can reach longevity retirement status, so it is only necessary to encourage those who are under 16 years to stay on active duty. Kurta says this anticipated

change “is in response to con- cerns from Congress.” He didn’t elaborate on what those con- cerns were, but it’s probably safe to assume Congress believes this change will save federal budget dollars. If fewer servicemembers choose to transfer the benefi t, that would result in some sav- ings. However, it is unclear that would happen; most service- members who intend to transfer will simply do so before reaching the 16-year mark, ultimately transferring the same amount of benefi ts, just sooner. For that matter, many servicemembers already plan to transfer benefi ts before they reach 16 years, in order to complete the four-year active duty requirement by their 20-year mark. “The Post-9/11 GI Bill was

arguably the most eff ective re- cruiting and retention tool Con- gress has ever passed,” says Lt. Col. Aniela Szymanski, USMCR, MOAA’s director of Government Relations for Veterans Benefi ts. “Now that it has been entrenched as an entitlement with the pas- sage of the Forever GI Bill, it has become an expectation of ser- vice, and it is unlikely Congress can ever eliminate it without the

January 2018 | MILITARY OFFICER | 17

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