Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret.), president & CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, discusses military issues that he’d like to see addressed by Congress, and what to watch for in the FY20 Budget request.
Congressional leaders say that they aren’t waiting on the Trump administration’s 2020 military budget to start work on the National Defense Authorization Act. Provisions expected in this year’s authorization bill include changes to military pay and research into new and experimental technologies. Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret.), president & CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, says that his organization is raising awareness of issues that could be addressed in this year’s bill. “One of the highest ones is the Tricare system. That’s the medical healthcare system that our beneficiary population relies on. Over the past few years, there has been announced premium increases, copay increases and pharmacy increases. We are just making sure that whatever occurs within in the Tricare system remains reasonable and proportional,” said Atkins. “The other part about the Tricare system is contract changes. Over the last couple of years, there have been contract changes for the West Coast and East Coast beneficiary population. Every time you have a contract change, you instill some level of confusion for the beneficiary population.” One of the issues that Atkins is worried about is the “widow’s tax.” He told Government Matters that the military’s Survivor Benefit Plan and Dependent Indemnity Compensation at Veterans Affairs need to be reformed to support military spouses. “If you get SBP payment and DIC, there’s a dollar for dollar extraction here. Almost all in Congress see that as egregiously wrong, but the ability to generate the resources to offset that has been the challenge,” Atkins told Government Matters. “Right now, there’s an estimate of about 67,000 widows who are encumbered by that and the current estimate is $5.3 billion. What we are looking for is the Congressional Budget Office to get an accurate estimate of that cost. Because once we have that, I think we will be a little bit more successful.”