Tricare fee increase scrapped; pay boosts won’t happen

House-Senate conferees negotiating final details on a fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill Tuesday rolled back fee increases charged to Tricare Standard beneficiaries for stays in civilian hospitals.

The surprise increases, reported here last week, gave lawmakers a chance to ride to the rescue. The decision puts a cherry atop the $680.2 billion defense policy bill, at least for working-age military retirees and their families, who would have seen a $110-a-day bump in hospital bills.

That was a fortuitous opportunity for the Armed Services committees because other pay and benefit initiatives in the bill are relatively modest compared with past years. And the gains are dampened by some too-familiar legislative disappointments for service members, veterans and their families.

One new disappointment is that the Democratic-led Congress couldn’t find money to support President Barack Obama’s call to phase in pay boosts for disabled retirees who are forced by ailments or injuries to leave the service before completing the 20 years of service.

His plan would have boosted the pay of 103,000 retirees at a cost of $5.4 billion over 10 years. The House alone had voted to take the first step, using dollars freed up from an energy appropriation, to expand pay for retirees with fewer than 20 years and disability ratings of 90 to 100 percent.

But Senate conferees concluded it would violate Senate budget rules to take even a first step in Obama’s phase-in plan without proper funding.

The principle behind the extra pay is that the Department of Defense should pay retirees an annuity for total years served and Veterans Affairs should fully compensate them for their disabilities.

For many thousands of disabled retirees, their retired pay still is reduced by the amount of their disability compensation.

Obama promised in his presidential campaign to get rid of the reduction for all disabled military retirees. But White House budget officials were stunned to learn the cost — $45 billion over 10 years — and so lowered their first-term target to the smaller group with more serious disabilities, an unpopular compromise.

House-Senate Conferees also rejected two familiar Senate-passed initiatives as unfunded. One would have ended a reduction in survivor benefit payments to 54,000 widows who also draw dependency and indemnity compensation from the VA.

The other provision tossed would have made 140,000 more reservists mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001, eligible for earlier reserve retirement. In 2007, Congress had lowered the age-60 start of reserve retired pay by three months for every 90 consecutive days that reserve or guard members are called up for war or national emergency, if they otherwise qualify for retirement.

For lack of funds, Congress made the change applicable only for deployment time after Jan. 28, 2008. That restriction will remain.

To comment, e-mail, write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111 or visit:

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Yansi De La Cruz molds a cheese mixture into bone shapes at Himalayan Dog Chew on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Give a dog a bone? How about a hard cheese chew from Arlington instead!

Launched from a kitchen table in 2003, Himalayan Pet Supply now employs 160 workers at its new Arlington factory.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Washington minimum wage to top $16 an hour next year

Meanwhile, some salaried workers and rideshare drivers could see their earnings rise from other state-required adjustments.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.