FRA NewsBytes 12/20/2013

NewsBytes 12/20/2013

NewsBytes 12/20/2013

In this week’s edition:
Senate Passes Budget Agreement with Cut to Military Retiree COLAs
Narrow NDAA Passes
New 2014 BAH Rates Available
Agent Orange Report Released
FRA Headquarters Holiday Closures
Senate Passes Budget Agreement with Cut to Military Retiree COLAs
This week, FRA’s legislative team together with staff from other military and veterans’ associations visited every Senator’s office on Capitol Hill to urge them to oppose the provision (Section 4300) of the budget agreement (H. J Res. 59) that reduces by one percent the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for military retirees under age 62 that will be implemented with 2016 COLA increases. REDUX retirees (those who accepted a retention bonus in exchange for reduced retirement benefits) are excluded from these cuts.

Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) actively opposed the military retiree COLA provision. Senator Ayotte went on Fox News Channel (FNC) to explain her opposition to the COLA cut before a panel of journalists. Special thanks also to Shipmate Secretary John Kotheimer of Branch 338 and DLP John Davis who attended a press conference on behalf of FRA in New Hampshire with Senator Kelly Ayotte.

The Senate passed the bill (64-36); after the final vote in the Senate, FRA staff participated in a press conference with these senators, who urged the president not to sign the bill. The senators stated that this is only the first battle and not the end of the war. They vowed that if the president signed it into law, they would continue to advocate for legislation to restore these cuts before they take effect in 2016. The resolution will be sent to the president to be signed into law or vetoed. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask the president to veto the resolution (http://action.fra.org/action-center/), and sign a petition on the White House website.

To go to White House petition click here. (To sign petition, you must create an account.)

In related news, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey held a press conference this week that included a discussion on the impact of sequestration cuts on the Department of Defense (DoD) budget. SecDef Hagel stated that although the budget agreement reduces upcoming budget cuts, pay and benefit cuts are necessary for DoD to comply with the cuts that are mandated. He also suggested that COLA cuts in the budget agreement should be restored only for disabled retirees. Members can use the Action Center to ask their elected officials to exclude Defense from future sequestration cuts at: http://action.fra.org/action-center/.

Narrow NDAA Passes
Before leaving town for the Christmas recess, the Senate approved an abridged National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA – H.R. 3304) and sent it to the president to be signed into law. The legislation was pared down to hasten passage before the end of the year. Provisions in the bill include:

  • Rejecting new and increased TRICARE fees;
  • Authorizing a one-time offer to TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who live outside of a Prime Service Area (PSA) to keep their current health care coverage;
  • Authorizing a one percent annual active duty/Reserve pay increase;
  • Extending special pays and bonuses that will otherwise expire on Jan. 1, 2014;
  • Providing 27 new provisions that protect victims of alleged sexual assault;
  • Requiring DoD and VA to have seamless electronic health care data by Oct. 1, 2016;
  • Providing for additional impact aid for schools with large military populations; and
  • Allowing veterans and service members not in uniform the option to salute during the Pledge of Allegiance.

FRA’s Legislative Team will continue to influence key issues important to FRA Shipmates that were dropped from consideration in the NDAA due to a lack of time.

New 2014 BAH Rates Available
Defense officials recently announced that Base Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates will increase on average five percent in 2014. This increase is the largest in five years. Click here to find out the specific increase in your zip code.

Agent Orange Report Released
FRA National Executive Director Tom Snee and DLP John Davis recently attended a briefing at the Institute of Medicine to discuss a recently released report from the National Academy of Sciences on the health effects from exposure to herbicides used during military operations in Vietnam. The study is mandated by the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-4) and the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001 (P. L. 107-103). The study provides limited or suggestive evidence that some Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange herbicide have a higher incidence of stroke after age 70. As noted in the study, the possibility of adverse health effects in offspring of Vietnam veterans is a high priority with veterans, but is a very elusive outcome to establish or refute.

FRA Headquarters Holiday Closures
FRA National Headquarters (NHQ) Staff wishes everyone a merry Christmas, a safe and joyous holiday and a very happy 2014! Our offices will be closed on December 24 and 25 for Christmas, and will reopen on Wednesday, December 26. NHQ will also be closed on December 31 and January 1, in observance of New Year’s Day.

Due to the holiday schedule, the next edition of FRA NewsBytes will be January 3, 2014.