Sometimes I feel like Congress is the bully on the school playground. They make all the rules and tell everyone how to play the game they want to play. They give out great toys, our military benefits, but they constantly taunt us saying they’ll take them away.
Military families want Congress to play fair.
When they promise us something, we expect them to live up to it.
Every year Congress looks at military spending. They question how to save the government money. Military benefits are put on the chopping block every time. Think about the benefits you or your service member were promised when enlisting.
Are you getting everything you were promised? Probably not.
I’ve been part of the military community my entire life. My parents were both in the Army and my husband is in the Navy. I have seen firsthand how Congress plays. I read the transcripts from subcommittees that debate changes to military benefits.
I pay close attention to the wording of bills I follow to see how they progress through the Senate and the House. Not many people do, which is why I enjoy writing about what Congress is doing in regards to changes that affect military families.
I want you to know what is going on so you aren’t blindsided.
So many changes have occurred recently. Have you kept up with what Congress is doing or have you been thrown a curve when you’ve needed a benefit?
Tricare had significant changes start on January 1, 2018, for example. Did you know that while Tricare Prime remained the same, Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra merged to become Tricare Select? A significant part of the change is that beneficiaries will no longer be able to switch between Tricare plans at any time. There will now be an open enrollment window. Life events will continue to enable you to switch however.
I’m sure you know that we got a pay raise this year. That’s one thing military families keep track of. There are some important things to consider though. Congress isn’t necessarily giving away extra money without caveats. You might want to read up on BAH rates for locations you are considering for your next PCS. Rates have gone up, slightly, in some locations and down in others.
Did you know that Congress wants military families to start covering 5% of BAH starting as early as next year?
Military retirement changed on January 1 as well. Congress made the most significant change to military retirement pensions in 70 years. The old plan, known as the legacy retirement system, stayed the same. A new retirement program known as the blended retirement system allows incoming service members to basically set aside money that is matched by the government up to a point. They will no longer be required to stay in the set 20 years to earn a retirement benefit.
The post-9/11 GI Bill also changed. Previously there was a 15-year cutoff date to use or lose the benefit after a service member left the military, if they left after 2013. That was eliminated. Reservists will now see their benefits increased. Surviving dependents and Purple Heart recipients get better benefits as well. A great thing is that those who attended a college that closed in 2015 or later, who ended up losing their money, will now get a new allotment.
These are just a few of the changes Congress sent our way already this year. It’s great that those entering the military will have some improvements to benefits such as the retirement plan and the post-9/11 GI Bill. Those that have been in for a while are excluded from many benefit improvements coming though. Tricare is a major benefit that many people joined the military for. That’s taking a big hit. Copays for medication increased. The dental plan changed, and not for the better, not to long ago. The commissary has changed so that prices fluctuate with the area.
In some ways it’s like Congress is making friends with the new kids and bullying their other classmates on the playground. The bully didn’t play favorites during the recent government shutdown though. Congress mandated that service members continue to work, even if they weren’t going to get paid. And our representatives didn’t lose money or sleep over this decision.