Recent changes in the law benefit Servicemembers and their families. Congress passed legislation, which gives nearly seven billion dollars in spending in a policy defense bill. This new legislation includes new improvements to the treatment of wounded veterans, survivor benefit changes, and brand new changes in retired and reserve pay. The new law also carries a three and a half percent active duty military pay raise.
The increase in reserve retirement funds, the active duty pay raise, the wounded veteran warrior assistance package, and other spending increases were long overdue. Most of this spending option were pushed by congress but initially resisted by certain members of the Pentagon, and the White House. After a lot of negotiations, all active duty and reserve members will receive a three and a half percent pay increase effective 01 January 2008. This is about one half percent more than what was proposed initially by the Bush Administration. What the Bush Administration proposed at first was a proposal to match private sector earning and wage growth last year. This was about three percent for fiscal 2007.
A higher than civilian wage growth plan was dropped by the House of Representatives as a result of the intense negotiations between the parties, and between Congress and the White house. Defense Officials in the Pentagon believed it would strip much needed funding from other vital priorities, and in this way it was thought to be overly generous. Attempts to increase or raise the premiums on retail pharmacy costs, and to raise premiums on TRICARE were staunchly resisted by Congress.
There was a specific attempt to address the bureaucracy and huge amount of red tape regarding treating wounded combat troops, and procedures to determine if a wounded Veteran can stay in the military. The new law has a provision called the Wounded Warrior Act, and addresses these concerns as well as the Benefits a wounded Warrior will receive if they separate from the military, and their health care needs.
The new law creates a Resource center for Wounded Warriors, and is supposed to serve as the main point of initial contact and information for wounded Servicemembers, their families, and access to services. Information about benefits, health care, and other questions can be answered using this resource center. The new legislation also requires the Veterans Administration and the DoD, and the Pentagon to establish standards and common rules for evaluating a Servicemember for disability. The new law also establishes a benchmark of twenty-six weeks for the Family Leave and Benefit Act, for those caring for a wounded Servicemember. Previously the limit under the Family leave act was considerably less.