Authorization Bill Talks Hung up over Military Benefits

A dispute over DOD cost-saving reforms affecting the basic allowance for housing and co-pays for prescription drugs are holding up negotiations between the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services committees over a compromise fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill.

Committee leaders were aiming to wrap up negotiations by the end of the week, and clearing the final version of the bill through the House and Senate during the lame duck session.

The Pentagon had proposed slowing growth in the basic allowance for housing below the rate of inflation over the next three years so that the benefit only covers 95 percent of average rental costs. The Senate Armed Services Committee had adopted the proposal, while the House version of the annual defense policy bill did not.

The House version also rejected DOD’s plan to increase pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled outside of military treatment facilities, stating it would wait to review the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission before adjusting military benefits, reported CQ. The panel’s final report to the president and Congress is due to Feb. 1, 2015. Senate Armed Services had accepted the changes to pharmacy co-pays.

On Tuesday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicated the two chambers still had issues to work out, but said he hopes talks would be finished soon, according to the story.

“We’re not there yet,” Levin said. “That’s what it amounts to.”

Dan Cohen
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