WASHINGTON , DC – Today the House of Representatives will consider the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2007. This legislation provides $462.9 billion, including a $70 billion bridge fund to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also an increase of 30,000 and 5,000 in end strength for the Army and Marine Corps respectively. Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee are pleased to note that many of their legislative priorities were included in the final bill.
Army and Marine Corps Readiness
The bill includes $23 billion extra to fully cover the reset needs of the Army and Marine Corps for fiscal year 2007.
“I am very pleased that after drawing attention to this issue for several months, we were finally able to include the money necessary to begin the reset of Army and Marine Corps equipment rapidly being depleted in the war in Iraq. Additional money will undoubtedly be needed in future years, but this bill is a big step in the right direction,” said Ranking Member Ike Skelton (MO).
“The bill takes important action to address shortfalls in operations, training and maintenance funding that the Department of Defense failed to address in their regular budget submission,” continued Rep. Solomon Ortiz (TX), Ranking Member on the Readiness Subcommittee. “Now that we’ve taken care of our immediate readiness need, we must look ahead to the long term needs we have not yet begun to address.”
TRICARE and Prescription Drug cost shares
A one-year moratorium is placed on increases in TRICARE cost shares and retail prescription drug co-pays.
“This is what I tried to do when this bill was considered in the House. Our military servicemembers and their families are making great sacrifices right now. I am pleased we were able to block this increase in their prescription drug costs,” Ranking Member Skelton said.
TRICARE for Reservists
TRICARE Reserve Select is expanded to members of the Selected Reserves, and the current three tier eligibility program is terminated.
"Providing access to health insurance recognizes the sacrifices our Guard and Reserve troops are making every day,” commented Rep. Gene Taylor (MS), Ranking Member on the Projection Forces Subcommittee. “As long as our nation continues to use our reserve components in the same capacities as active duty troops, they deserve similar benefits for similar service."
Servicemembers Group Life Insurance
Full premiums for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance are paid for servicemembers in the theater of operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for us every day. They should not have to pay for life insurance when we put them in harm’s way,” said Representative John Spratt (SC). “This bill allows every service member serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to take the full amount of life insurance available, and not worry about the costs associated with it. This is precious little consolation to families who lose loved ones, but it will help them through their painful transition. It is the very least we can do.
Regulating Payday Lending
This bill prohibits creditors from charging service members annual percentage rates of interest for loans that are higher than the legal limit for state residents, or no more than 36 percent. It also directs the Secretary of Defense to set specific limitations on lending practices for creditors who extend credit to service members and their dependents.
"Predatory lending not only hurts service members and their dependents, it is having an impact on our nation’s security,” noted Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. “Service members in financial trouble, who have attempted to solve their problems through predatory lending, often find themselves deeper in debt, and in some cases their financial situations have led to the loss of security clearances, letters of reprimand, non-judicial punishment, and ultimately separation from the military.”