House defense bill passes with slight pay, TRICARE increases

Thursday - 5/26/2011, 5:51pm EDT

By Federal News Radio staff

The House passed a $690 billion defense bill that gives the military a 1.6 percent raise but also increases TRICARE health care fees slightly for working-age military retirees.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 passed the House on a 322-96 vote. The bill determines defense spending levels and policy.

The pay raise comes as federal civilian employees' salaries are frozen for two years.

Under the House bill, retirees not yet eligible for Medicare would see an annual increase of $30 for individual coverage and $60 for family coverage, Stars and Stripes reports.

The health care fee increase is the first increase in TRICARE in 15 years. Twice before, Congress has rejected TRICARE fee increases proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The bill also contains a provision to block pay raises to DoD employees with a job performance of "unsatisfactory."

"With the tough fiscal times facing our country, the bill treats every taxpayer dollar as precious," said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a statement. " Sound fiscal stewardship is essential to protecting our national security. We address the breathtaking size and scope of our national security challenges by providing for the common defense in an efficient, fiscally responsible manner."

The Senate Armed Services Committee will begin crafting its version of the defense bill the week of June 13.

The House bill also delays the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the policy that banned gay servicemembers from openly serving in the military.

Included in the bill was an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to provide employment services for the most severely wounded warriors and their spouses.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.