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Senate Committee Responds to Begich Call to Protect Military Families

Draft Bill Provides Service Members and Families with Benefits They Deserve

U.S. Senator Mark Begich is pleased the Senate Armed Services Committee, at his urging, rejected a number of proposals by the Obama administration to cut commissary subsidies and other support for service members and their families in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

“The Committee heard my concerns and rejected proposed cuts to commissary subsidies and raising Tricare fees. This is a good first step and I will keep working to get these provisions through the full Senate,” said Begich. “I will also keep fighting to reject the President’s proposal to reduce Basic Allowance for Housing. The Administration needs to understand their proposal would increase out-of-pocket costs for service members and their families.”

The bill was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month and will move next to the full Senate for consideration.

In April Begich sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) urging the Committee in drafting the bill to reject ill-conceived DOD proposals affecting military families.  The proposals Begich highlighted as troublesome in his letter included:

  • Commissary Subsidy Reduction – the Department of Defense (DOD) has proposed reducing the Defense Commissary Agency’s subsidy, which would negatively affect all Active duty service members, retirees and families.  DOD has publicly stated prices would rise at all locations due to the cut.  The impact of higher prices would be severe for Alaska’s 10,357 retirees, approximately 65,000 Active duty service members and their families.  Last year, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s commissary accepted more food stamp payments, totaling $4.84 million, than any of the other 245 commissaries in the nation. 
  • Tricare Consolidations – Both the House and Senate Armed Service Committees have agreed to reject consolidation of TRICARE plans that could have jeopardized provider networks.  The proposal could have serious consequences in Alaska where access to care is already a challenge due to geography, high costs and lack of available services.
  • Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) reduction –DOD has proposed a three-year plan to reduce BAH by 5 percent of the national average for housing according to pay grade and dependency status.  Military members living some Alaska communities pay up to 143 percent more than the typical U.S. household for utility costs.

For more information on Begich’s record and views on our military and national defense, visit his Senate website.

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