Rumor Has It…Sequestration and Military Families


Rumor Has It…Sequestration and Military Families





Early this year, Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief that we avoided the tumble off the dreaded “Fiscal Cliff”—a combination of tax increases, mandatory spending cuts, and lower reimbursements to Medicare providers. Unfortunately, the Fiscal Cliff “fix” agreed to by Congress and the Administration in January only kicked the spending cut can down the road. Sequestration, the mandatory spending cuts inserted into the 2011 Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) as a way to force deficit reduction over the next 10 years, takes effect on March 1 and no one seems to be doing anything to prevent it.

Questions and rumors about what might happen are making military families uneasy, angry, and looking for someone to do something. So, what will happen on March 1 if an agreement isn’t reached?

Rumor: Military pay and allowances will be cut. False.

Fact: Military pay and allowances are protected. Paychecks will be paid on time and basic allowance for housing and other pays will continue. Retirees and survivors will also continue to receive their payments and annuities.

Rumor: Deployed troops are coming home due to cutbacks. False.

Fact: Department of Defense (DoD) is protecting funding for operations in Afghanistan. The bad news is that no one knows where the funding is coming from and cuts to training accounts could delay the preparation of replacements for service members currently deployed.

Rumor: Sequestration will cause a government shutdown. False.

Fact: While DoD will immediately have more than $40 billion less to fund its operations after March 1, the effects of the cuts will occur over the next several months. Information from the Services suggests that the effects will be more severe after April and especially this summer. Child care centers will operate and schools and commissaries will remain open, but services will diminish and many programs and agencies will cut their hours. The greatest effects will be seen in military readiness, as it declines over the next year, but this is not a shutdown. Check back for updates later in March regarding a possible government shutdown due to the end of the funding in the Continuing Resolution.

Rumor: Wounded warrior programs are in jeopardy. False—maybe.

Fact: DoD says wounded warrior programs are protected. But, support for wounded warriors and their families is provided through several different programs, including military health care, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, Marine for Life, and Navy Safe Harbor. Many of these programs are staffed by civilians who might be furloughed. More details are needed before we can determine just how total support for wounded warriors and their families will be affected.

Rumor: Only non-essential DOD civilians could be furloughed for up to 22 days. False.

Fact: Most of the 800,000 DOD civilians around the world could be furloughed for up to 22 days beginning April 25. The once-a-week furlough day would result in a 20 percent cut in their pay. All parts of the country and military communities overseas will be affected. Eighty percent of these workers work outside of the National Capital region. This furlough will affect all civilians equally, but DoD has identified only limited exceptions to the furloughs, including civilians in war zones, foreign workers overseas, and political appointees.

Rumor: Family health care will probably be affected with longer wait times and less access. True.

Fact: The military health system is NOT exempt and will be cut by $3 billion. DoD civilians, who will be subject to furlough, make up 40 percent of the total workforce in military hospitals and clinics. This could result in reductions in clinic hours and care. Referrals for “elective” care might be delayed or frozen. If sequestration drags on, DoD may delay payment to civilian doctors who see TRICARE patients.

Rumor: TRICARE for Life is protected from sequestration. True—But.

Fact: Funding for TRICARE for Life and Medicare is protected, except that Medicare payments to doctors will be cut by 2 percent under sequestration. So, Medicare-eligible TRICARE beneficiaries can continue to visit their civilian doctors and have their medical claims paid. TRICARE for Life beneficiaries who receive care in military hospitals and clinics may find it more difficult to get an appointment because of civilian furloughs. They may also find that the military pharmacy is trying to save money by no longer stocking some medications or filling prescriptions for a smaller number of days than usual. Pharmacy civilian staff will also be furloughed and so wait times at the pharmacies may climb. We encourage beneficiaries to check out TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery.

Rumor: Community support services will cease to exist. False.

Fact: Offices that service military families – Army Community Service, Fleet and Family Support Centers, Airman and Family Service Centers, Marine Corps Community Services – could have to adjust hours and services due to the civilian furloughs. They are also subject to hiring freezes. Smaller staffs will result in longer waits for families needing services such as counseling, financial advice, new parent support programs, survivor outreach, and victim advocates.

Rumor: Only military children in DoD schools will be affected by sequestration. False.

Fact: While Department of Defense schools are NOT exempt from civilian furloughs, DoD insists they will work to provide school children with a full year of quality education and ensure each school maintains its accreditation. It’s important to remember that military families will also be hurt by cuts to civilian programs. Federal education programs face cuts of $106 million in Impact Aid money that supports civilian schools educating military kids; $1 billion in special education programs; $140 million in student financial aid; and $1.3 billion in Title I funding that helps many schools attended by military children.

Rumor: Many Child Development Centers will experience reduced hours and available slots. True.

Fact: The impact on Child Development Centers (CDC) and Child and Youth Services is unclear. Some centers are staffed by Non-appropriated fund (NAF) workers who will not be affected by furloughs. Others are staffed by civilian government employees and some by a mixture of both types. Centers staffed by DoD civilians will be affected by furloughs. Decisions on cutbacks on hours or services will be made locally.

Rumor: Commissaries will go away. False.

Fact: Commissaries and its headquarters will be closed on Wednesdays, in addition to any days the commissaries are currently closed.

Rumor: Base exchanges will have to cut hours. False.

Fact: Military exchanges (AAFES, NEXCom, Marine Corps Exchange) do not receive appropriated funding (other than some support for shipping goods overseas) and so will not have to adjust hours because of sequestration.

Rumor: PCS orders will be affected. Unknown.

Fact: What will happen to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves is unclear. Funds for dislocation allowances tied to PCS moves will be available, but transportation offices will be short-staffed because of civilian furloughs. When we asked if funds to cover the transportation of household goods and families would be affected by sequestration, we were told each Service will decide soon on the extent of PCS moves this summer.

We’ll share additional information from the military Services on how they will implement the sequestration cuts and remain in conversation with senior DoD officials. We’re also highlighting the grave effects sequestration and other budget uncertainties will have on military families in meetings with Members of Congress and administration officials. We’ll provide updates as we receive them, but want to hear from you.

What are you hearing in your community? Are there questions you’d like answered? What do you want our Nation’s leaders to know about how this uncertainty is hurting your military family?

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