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House Committee Begins Consideration of Defense Authorization Bill

This week, the six House Armed Services subcommittees marked up their portions of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007 (H.R. 5122). Further details of the bill will be available upon completion of the full committee’s mark-up on May 3.

On April 26, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel approved, by voice vote, its portions of the bill. The measure would authorize a 2.7 percent across-the-board pay raise, 0.5 percent more than the administration’s FY2007 budget request; $300 million would be authorized to cover the increase.

Despite a budget request from the administration for higher TRICARE beneficiary cost shares, H.R. 5122 would prohibit the Department of Defense from increasing TRICARE Prime, Standard and TRICARE Reserve Select cost shares until December 31, 2007. During the interim period, the subcommittee plans to assess recommendations from an independent task force, the Comptroller General, and the Congressional Budget Office regarding long-term fiscal policies for military health care benefits. The legislation would add $735 million to the Defense Health Program to restore the amount cut by the budget request in anticipation of increased beneficiary cost shares.

Under H.R. 5122, TRICARE coverage would be expanded to include forensic examinations following sexual assaults and domestic violence, plus anesthesia and hospital costs for dental care provided to young children and mentally or physically challenged beneficiaries.

Subcommittee Chair John McHugh (R-NY) stated in a press release, “This legislation before you today, together with the military personnel-related provisions that we will consider next week during the full committee mark-up, address a range of issues and problems resulting from the tremendous pressures on the military services active, guard and reserve. We believe that the recommendations made here will help to relieve some of that stress and also recognize the significant sacrifices that take place each day in the lives of the men and women who serve in uniform, and in the lives of the families that support them.”

Expressing his regret that “the subcommittee was able to hold very few hearings before this mark-up,” Ranking Member Vic Snyder (D-AR) said, “Our military personnel, their families, and retirees deserve greater oversight of the programs and policies that affect their daily lives, particularly as we are a nation at war. I would hope that while we begin the process toward completion of the defense bill for this year, that the subcommittee will continue its oversight efforts and hearings.”

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