In late January, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) presented its recommendations to the President and Congress.
What does the MCRMC do, again? The MCRMC was established by the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to review the existing military compensation and retirement systems. The MCRMC began work on its recommendations report in July 2013 with one goal; to make recommendations to modernize compensation and retirement systems to ensure the sustainability and existence of an all-volunteer force.
In its report the commission made 15 specific recommendations to the benefits military families receive, including the following categories:
- Post 9/11 GI Bill Transferability
- Military Child Education
- Space-Available Travel
- Food Subsistence Assistance
MCRMC Myths: Debunked
After the report’s release, our advisors heard from families in their networks, asking how the commission’s recommendations will impact their families moving forward. We listened, and used your feedback to compile a list of areas where we thought clarification was needed, myths as it were, that seemed to have taken on a life of their own in social media.
Military health care = “Obamacare”
Over the last few months, our advisors have heard from families in their networks asking if the MCRMC health care recommendations will terminate existing benefits and force military families into the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The report does recommend changes to existing health care plans specifically for military dependents and retirees under the age of 65. However, these plans are modeled after the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), not the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare. In its report the MCRMC made a number of legislative proposals to general health care benefits military families receive. These recommendations include:
- “Establishing a new health insurance program to provide coverage to certain dependents of service members”
- “Adding a basic allowance for health care to members of the uniformed services who are on active duty for a period of more than 30 days and have dependents”
This basic allowance for health care for active duty families was created to help cover the average expected cost of these new health care plans. That stipend stops once a military member separates or retires. The MCRMC did not recommend any changes to TRICARE for Life.
The MCRMC wants to do away with military retirement pay
The MCRMC recommended reducing the current retirement benefit by 20% (so, 40% base pay at 20 years) but enhancing the Thrift Savings Plan by matching service member contributions up to 5%. Currently serving military members are grandfathered into the current 50% of base pay at 20 years system, but may opt-in to the recommended plan.
The MCRMC did not consult with military families, women, or enlisted service members when drafting their report
MFAN had the opportunity to work with the MCRMC during the research process and made recommendations on behalf of military families. The MCRMC staff played a huge role throughout both the research and development of this report. The staff is made up of women, service members, and fellow military spouses. For a list of specific groups the commission met with, see Appendix C of the final report.
What are some other recommendations I should know about?
Child Care Services
In its report the MCRMC made a recommendation to raise minor military construction project budgets in order to modify and enhance a child development facility, serving children from birth through 12 years of age.
In an effort to provide service members more learning opportunities, the MCRMC recommends the following: “limit the payment of tuition for off-duty training or education to training or education that is likely to contribute to the member’s professional development”. This means that the MCRMC recommends tuition benefits for active duty only be used for courses that lead to professional development. There were several other recommendations that impact education benefits — we think Military.com did a good job recapping the proposed changes.
Post-9/11 GI Bill Transferability
The MCRMC recommended that service members be able to “transfer unused education benefits to family members after the member has completed 10 years of service and agrees to serve for 2 more years. The prior provision required 6 years of service and agreement to serve for 4 more years”. The MCRMC also recommended that the housing allowance be eliminated for eligible family members starting in 2017.
MFAN respects the process and thoughtfulness that the commission exercised — it really did its homework and listened to military families throughout the process. This report creates the opportunity for a conversation that needs to be had regarding military resources and services, and preservation of the All-Volunteer Force. Members of the House and Senate are currently considering MCRMC’s recommendations. Whether you agree or disagree with the MCRMC recommendations, we would encourage you to contact your elected representatives to ensure your voice continues to be part of this process.