November 2, 2005
Contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9093

(Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has joined in as a co-sponsor of a bill to help federal civilian and military retirees to pay for their health insurance premiums.

"I am pleased to join Sen. John Warner, a distinguished veteran, on a bill to improving the lives of our nation's heroes," Craig said. "This legislation will help veterans, and it will save them money."

The bill (S. 484) would allow federal and military retirees to use pre-tax dollars to pay supplemental premiums for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and TRICARE, the military health insurance program. The legislation would also grant a tax deduction to those who purchase TRICARE.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the legislation Craig is co-sponsoring would save a 60 year old veteran, who is not married, anywhere from $150 to $377 per year, depending on income level. A 60 year old married veteran would save anywhere from$350 to $880 a year.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) began offering such "premium conversion" savings to executive branch employees five years ago. The following year, in 2001, Congress extended the tax benefit to legislative branch workers. Experts say the average federal employee now saves over $400 by paying their share of health insurance premiums with pretax dollars.

The Senate bill has 49 co-sponsors and is now before the Senate Finance Committee. A similar bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 994) has 276 co-sponsors.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia), is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. He served as the Secretary of the Navy under President Richard Nixon.