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FRA NewsBytes Update for February 9, 2007

This week in NewsBytes:

FY 2008 Budget Sent to Congress

Retired Pay Restoration Act  
Flag Desecration Prohibition Amendment Introduced


FY 2008 Budget Sent to Congress
For FY 2008, the President is requesting $481.4 billion for the Defense Department and an additional $145.2 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations to support the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the dollars are a significant increase from FY 2007 the expenditure will only amount to 3.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is significantly lower that in past war time periods.

As part of the proposal, DoD again seeks increased TRICARE fees and co-payments for retirees under age 65 in order to "sustain the military health benefit." FRA strongly opposes the Administration's cost shifting plan until other options to make TRICARE more cost-efficient are sufficiently investigated.

Also included in the proposed budget is a request for an FRA-opposed tiered annual VA healthcare enrollment fee, based on annual family income above $50,000 and an increase on pharmacy co-pays from $8 to $15 for priority 7 and 8 beneficiaries. Annual family income above $50,000-74,999 would require a $250 enrollment fee; $75,000-99,999 would require $500 annual enrollment fee; and $100,000 and above would require $750 annual enrollment fee.

Analysis of the many other programs addressed in the budget request continues and many will be addressed in Congressional hearings in the coming months.

Retired Pay Restoration Act  
The Retired Pay Restoration Act (H.R. 303) sponsored by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) would permit retirees to receive service-connected disability from VA and their full retirement pay or Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC), and would eliminate the phase-in period for concurrent receipt that exists under the current law. There are currently 38 co-sponsors, which Rep. Bilirakis' staff contributes in large part to FRA members' use of the Action Center  to communicate with their elected officials requesting support. This was discussed at a strategy session on this issue hosted by Rep. Bilirakis' staff on Capitol Hill this week.

Honorary FRA Member and Pinnacle Award Recipient, Rep. Michael Bilirakis, now retired, introduced the identical bill and the same bill number in previous sessions.

Flag Desecration Prohibition Amendment Introduced
Congressman John Murtha (Pa.) re-introduced legislation proposing an amendment to the Constitution allowing Congress to prohibit desecration of the flag of the United States (H. J. Res. 12). Many brave men and women who serve and have served in the Armed Services feel deeply about the honor and dignity of "Old Glory," and the physical desecration of this symbol of democracy and freedom is an affront to them and the memory of those who died in the service of this Nation. Similar legislation has passed in the House but failed in the Senate by only a few votes in several previous Congresses. FRA members are urged to contact their Representative on this issue through the Action Center  located on the FRA website www.fra.org.

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