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What Congress Has in Store for You in 2007

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Retirees and Reservists who agree to serve on active duty in high-density, low-demand assignments, could receive a bonus of up to $50,000. However, members who receive a bonus under this program cannot be promoted during the active duty service.

Army Recruit Referral Bonus. Under the old program, Army active duty members and reserve members could be paid $1,000 for referring individuals who then join the Army. The new law increases the amount to $2,000 per referral, and makes the program available to Army retirees, and Department of the Army civilian employees, as well. However, Army JROTC Instructors are not eligible. Under the new procedures, $1,000 of the bonus is paid to the referrer when the recruit enters basic training, and the remaining $1,000 is paid when the recruit graduates AIT (job training).

Overpayment Waivers.Under previous law, the military could waive up to $1,500 in pay and allowances and travel overpayments if the overpayment was not the fault of the service member. The new law increases the maximum to $10,000 and increases the waiver period from one year to three years.

Tricare Fees. The Bush Administration proposed an increase in Tricare fees for military retirees under the age of 65. The new law flatly reject this. Congress is prohibiting any increases in Tricare Standard, Prime, and Reserve Select premiums, deductibles, and co-payments until at least the end of the Fiscal Year (September 30, 2007). Also frozen are any increases in co-payments for using commercial pharmacies.

Pharmacy. The new law includes a provision for a test program, where the military would pay for over-the-counter medication in lieu of prescription drugs. The test is expected to last two years and will be conducted at a minimum of five locations. It may also be tested through mail order, retail pharmacies, or on-base pharmacies.

Tricare for Reservists. Effective on October 1, 2007, drilling reservists will be allowed to enroll in the Reserve Select Health Plan, and pay a premium of 28 percent of the cost, with the government picking up the rest of the tab. Under the previous law, Tricare Reserve Select premiums fell under a three-tier program, depending on whether or not the Reservist was employed by a company which offered medical insurance programs.

Active Duty End Strength. Each year, as part of the Military Authorization Act, Congress sets the Active Duty End Strength, which is the maximum number of people that each of the services can have on active duty. For FY 2007 the limits are:

  • Army - 512,400
  • Air Force - 334,200
  • Navy - 340,700
  • Marine Corps - 180,000

Reserve Forces End Strength. Each year, as part of the Military Authorization Act, Congress sets the Reserve End Strength, which is the maximum number of people that each of the Reserve branches can have. For FY 2007 the limits are:

  • Army Reserves - 200,000
  • Army National Guard - 350,000
  • Air Force Reserves - 74,900
  • Air National Guard - 107,000
  • Navy Reserves - 71,300
  • Marine Corps Reserves - 39,600
  • Coast Guard Reserves - 10,000

Reserve Call-Up Authority. The previous law stated that, when the President determines that it is necessary to augment the active forces for any operational mission, up to 200,000 members of the Selected Reserve can be called to active duty for not more than 270 days. The new law changes the maximum time from 270 days to 365 days.

PROPOSALS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT

Base Pay. The House version of the bill contained a provisions for an across-the-board 2.7 percent pay increase. The Bush Administration requested an across-the-board increase of 2.2 percent, and this is the amount that the negotiators settled on.

The Senate version of the bill would have allowed retirement pay for O-7s through O-10s to be calculated based on the uncapped rates of basic pay. Currently, basic pay for senior officers is capped at the Senior Executive Service pay limits. This provision did not make it through the negotiation process.

Reserve Retirement Pay. Under current law, members who retire in the Reserves do not receive retirement pay until they reach the age of 60. Under the Senate version of the bill, some reservists could have started drawing retirement pay earlier. Under the provision, for every 90 days of mobilization after September 11, 2001, reservists could draw retirement pay 90 days earlier. This provision was dropped after resistance from the Department of Defense who felt that it would encourage reservists to leave the service earlier.

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