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Defense budget proposes pay raise for troops and no TRICARE fee increase

House lawmakers released a new defense budget plan on Tuesday, which will increase pay for troops by 1.6% and will hold Tricare fees steady for veterans.

The 1.6% raise is slightly higher than the previous bump of 1.4% but only about half of the typical pay increase military members had received over the last decade. If approved, the raise would amount to around $40 for an E-4 with six years of service and close to $90 for an O-4 with similar time in service.

President Obama proposed a 1.6% increase for troops in the defense budget he submitted to Congress in February. In the past, lawmakers have offered even larger pay increases than what the White House proposed. The amount is in line with the projected rate of an increase in civilian pay, even though civilian government employees currently have their pay frozen for the next two years.

Tricare Prime is also protected from a fee increase for one year in the new budget plan. The Defense Department and Pentagon officials have been requesting an increase in enrollment prices for working-age retirees for several years to offset the rising health care costs that they claim are threatening to overwhelm the defense budget. The fee was scheduled to increase by 13 percent as soon as this fall.

The bill also makes mental health assessments available to members of the reserve during training sessions and offers expanded legal council for victims of sexual assault. Language in the bill also requires Pentagon officials to track dwell time more precisely to ensure all troops benefit from an appropriate amount of time at home between their deployments.

Subcommittees will be debating portions of the budget this week. The full House Armed Services Committee is expected to pass its final version by mid-May. There is no schedule for a full House vote on the measure or a date for the Senate to begin its discussions regarding the defense budget.

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