1.6 percent pay hike for troops in House defense budget proposal
By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 3, 2011
WASHINGTON — Troops would receive a 1.6 percent pay raise in January and Tricare fees for veterans would be held steady under a defense budget plan released by House lawmakers on Tuesday.
The pay raise is slightly above this year’s 1.4 percent boost but roughly half of the typical increases servicemembers received during the last decade. If approved, the increase would mean about $40 more a month for an E-4 with six years service and about $90 for an O-4 with six years.
President Barack Obama proposed a 1.6 percent raise in his defense budget outline in February, but in past years lawmakers have offered pay hikes larger than the White House proposals. The figure is tied to the projected rate of increase in civilian pay.
Civilian government employees are in the middle of a two-year pay freeze instituted by Obama late last year.
The full budget plan, which will be voted on by the House Armed Services Committee next week, also prohibits Tricare Prime fee increases for one year, which would scuttle Defense Department plans to hike enrollment prices for working-age retirees by 13 percent as early as this fall.
Pentagon officials have pushed for the Tricare fee increases for several years, saying that rising health care costs threaten to overwhelm the defense budget. But veterans groups have opposed those plans, and lawmakers in the House and Senate have shelved the plans each year.
Lawmakers have also inserted language requiring Pentagon officials to better track dwell time, to ensure all troops receive appropriate time at home between deployments. It would also make mental health assessments available for members of the reserve components during training sessions, and expand legal council options for sexual assault victims.
In a statement, military personnel subcommittee chairman Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said the proposals ensure that “our men and women in uniform, their families, and veterans are adequately compensated for their selfless sacrifice and dedication to our great nation.”
Subcommittees are expected to debate portions of the defense budget this week, and the full committee is expected to pass its version of the fiscal 2012 budget by May 13. No timetable has been set for a full House vote on the measure, or when the Senate will begin its defense budget discussions.