Last week the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) released their report, in which they listed their military benefit recommendations, on ways to improve various parts of military compensation and benefits. Some of these things might not necessarily be an improvement in everyone’s eyes but when you’re talking about cutting spending there’s usually a little bit of pain involved.
There are many people talking about what’s in the report, and it is there in all of its three hundred and two page glory for you to pour through. You can visit our friends over at MilitaryOneClick for their break down, but there is more at stake here then just what is written in the report. It’s the after that I’m worried about. These are just recommendations and I’m concerned by Congress and what the President will do in the “After”.
One of the biggest undertakings listed in the MCRMC report is the dismantling and re-organizing of Tricare. For a National Guard family such as myself, my ears perked at these changes. In theory this could make things incredibly easy for us. They briefly break down the proposed new health care system on page 112. We will have a choice through the DoD Health Benefit program. My first reaction to this is mixed. I don’t know that I’m necessarily a complete a total fan of the current Tricare Reserve Select program, however having spent eight years on Tricare Prime Remote, I was spoiled. Free health-care where I could go to basically any civilian doctor I wanted. For a brief moment we spent some time on a health care plan provided by my husband’s civilian employer. It was a brief moment, because despite any frustrations we experienced on Reserve Select, Tricare still provides the best and most affordable options.
My biggest hope for this particular recommendation, if done right, would be the ease of transition as it involves orders. For our family, it isn’t at all unusual to be on orders just shy of, or just over the time allotted where BAH and Tricare Standard kicks in. This always leads to a difficult transition time and there have been times where we haven’t transitioned with healthcare and weren’t covered, we didn’t even know it. National Guard and Reserve families have shared this story with me before, so I know we aren’t alone. Another exciting possibility about this change is the improvement of military health care in general. My hope is that the days of “go to the ER” when your child has an ear infection will be long gone. I can only imagine that this will significantly reduce the cost.
Last, there were several recommendation as it pertains to general quality of life, and what I view as troop morale. Early last year issues of troop morale and welfare were at the top of my list of concerns (see my interview with CBS Evening News). There was talk of getting rid of the commissary itself even as far back as November of 2013, when our friends over at SpouseBuzz talked about it here. Now we have recommendations that talk about consolidation instead of eradication. Despite various opinions challenging the value of the commissary and exchange programs, the report states that , “there was consistent acknowledgement of the additional benefit offered overseas, and in remote and isolated locations, where commercial alternatives are either not available or not comparable.” Personally it is of extreme value to me, and I would add to the findings of MCRMC by stating that it is also extremely important in places like the Washington, DC area where the cost of living is extremely high.
Probably one of the more exciting recommendations has to do with child care on military installations. Child care on base can be hard to come by and the commission has several ideas on how to change that. With these changes it would hopefully become easier to gain access to child care, especially those of us in the National Guard, whose husbands are activated and deployed. Many times I have not even made it off the waiting list before he’s returned and I’ve lost my chance to get that time that I supposedly had. An overhaul of the hiring process, as well as building more facilities is recommended by the MCRMC.
Other recommendations you should take notice of are changes to Space A travel. Proposed changes would make it easier for those with shorter deployments (activations) to travel without their spouses. Also, the tracking our military kids better as they go through their school life through a national military dependent student identifier. This really piqued my interest and I’m anxious to see what comes of that particular recommendation.
Keep following along with us on as we delve into more of these “Afters”, and as the Senate Armed Forces Committee meets soon to discuss these recommendations further.