By Debbie Gregory.
House-Senate conferees have announced a deal on a massive defense bill, which will result in a pay raise of 2.4 percent for servicemembers. The $700 billion plan will also cover retention pay and bonuses, increasing troop size, repairs to the two Navy ships recently involved in deadly crashes, fund new ships and aircraft, and authorize new spending on missile defense.
The proposed pay raise would be the biggest increase for the military since 2010. The plan has already cleared several hurdles and now faces a vote before both chambers. After that comes the challenge of how to fund the plan.
Conferees rejected senators’ call to cut housing allowances for dual service couples with children. Under the Senate plan, one member no longer would have been eligible for Basic Allowance for Housing at the higher “with dependents” rate.
Married military members will both continue to receive BAH, with one spouse receiving the “without dependents” BAH rate, while the higher-ranking spouse receives the “with dependents” rate.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and leader of House Republican conferees, said all conferees had “the welfare of service members foremost in our minds. Some of that is pay and benefits but also, (considering) recent naval accidents and air accidents, it’s making sure they have equipment that works.”
Conferees did accept the Senate’s approval of a DoD plan to raise prescription drug fees, while encouraging greater use of generic drugs, on-base pharmacies and mail order pharmacy services. Survivors of members who die on active duty and retired disabled servicemembers would be exempt from the drug copay increases.
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