The NDAA: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA for those of you who love a good acronym, is Congress’s yearly opportunity to have its way with the Department of Defense. The massive bill (last year’s was almost 1,000 pages long!) includes everything from end strength – the number of service members each branch can have in each component – to whether DoD can spend money to retire the A-10 and what can be prosecuted under the UCMJ.

You might be thinking: I’m not in the military anymore, so this doesn’t impact me, right? Wrong. The NDAA can impact anything the DoD touches, which includes policies and programs that affect a much broader audience, such as military retirees, DoD civilians or potential employees, contractors, individuals who want to join the military, survivors, military families, and veterans looking for an upgraded discharge or a change to their military record. A few examples from past NDAAs include:

  • Last year’s (FY17) NDAA included the dissolution, set to happen Jan 1, 2018, of TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra and the creation of TRICARE Select, raised TRICARE fees for future retirees (those that join and then retire after Jan 1, 2018), and removed the post 9/11 national security waiver that allowed military retirees to be hired by DoD within 180 days of retirement.
  • The FY16 NDAA introduced the new Blended Retirement System, eliminated the ability for most veterans to collect unemployment while using their Post-9/11 GI Bill, and required DoD to develop new RIF procedures for its civilians, which resulted in DoD reducing veterans preference consideration during a reduction in force.
  • The FY15 NDAA authorized TRICARE to start covering breastfeeding supplies and support, required an outside entity to conduct a grocery retail analysis on the commissary (which has prompted a number of commissary changes), and included a number of limitations on contracts.

This year’s proposed NDAA is proving no different when it comes to impact on individuals who have left Active Duty. While it hasn’t been signed into law yet (the Senate is set to start working on their version today), here are a few of the things that might impact you:

  • The Senate version would remove the grandfathering provision that restricts increased TRICARE fees to those who join after Jan 1, 2018 (mentioned above) and would, instead, apply them to current retirees as well.
  • The House version would extend the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), which are monthly payments paid to surviving spouses whose Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) has been offset due to receiving Dependent and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), set to expire at the end of this month. The Senate version would want to pay for that by raising TRICARE co-pays for over-65 beneficiaries.
  • Senate version:
    • Reauthorizes the recall of retirees to active duty through 2022 for certain assignments
    • Provides direct hire authority for childcare development centers (CDC) staff
    • Allows hospice care under TRICARE for individuals under the age of 21
    • Would require VA and DoD to work together to reconsider all claims for disability compensation in connection with exposure to mustard gas or lewisite in WWII
    • Would require the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to review whether there should be a waiver to allow individuals who do not have a bachelor’s degree to be appointed to a position in certain fields, such as cybersecurity
  • House version:
    • Authorizes the Secretary of the Army to carry out a pilot program to use retired senior enlisted National Guard personnel as contracted recruiters for the Guard
    • Would allow the SecDef to carry out a pilot program to use teleconferencing technology to conduct correction of military records and discharge review boards
    • Expands the award of the Vietnam Service Medal to service members who participated in the Mayaguez rescue operation and/or Operation END SWEEP
    • Creates limited direct hire authority for certain military retirees

These are just a few of the provisions contained in the House and Senate versions of the bill. Which ones will end up becoming law remains to be seen.

You can keep track of what is happening with the NDAA and look up information on past NDAAs here.

You can find a summary of the Senate version here.

You can find a summary of the House version here.

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