FRA NewsBytes September 12, 2014

FRA Newsbytes 09/12/2014

FRA Newsbytes 09/12/2014

In this issue:
President’s Speech Delays Continuing Resolution in the House
New VA Secretary Meets with Congressional Leaders and Veteran Groups
FRA and Others Ask Veteran’s Committee Leaders to Act on More VA Reforms
TMC Honors Lawmakers, Congressional Staff

 

President’s Speech Delays Continuing Resolution in the House
A continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government open after the start of the new fiscal year (which begins on October 1, 2014) has been delayed as a result of the president’s speech to the nation Wednesday night. In his address, President Obama requested explicit authority and funding to allow the U.S. military to train Iraqis and Syrians to combat Islamic militants in both countries. The House had planned to pass a CR this week to keep the government operating at the current year (FY 2014) levels until December 11, 2014. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky.) said the last-minute request would mean that the CR (H.J. Res. 124) now will not be taken up on the floor until next week. House leadership has not made a final decision whether to include the authority in the stopgap spending bill or make it a separate measure. Although the president promised “no boots on the ground,” the military has conducted more than 150 air strikes in Iraq and currently has 1,054 service members in country, and the president has announced he will send an additional 475 troops to Iraq.

In related news, the president and Defense Department (DoD) officials participated in ceremonies at the White House and the Pentagon memorializing those who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

New VA Secretary Meets with Congressional Leaders and Veteran Groups
VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald met this week with the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees (SVAC and HVAC, respectively) to affirm his commitment to working together to better serve veterans. McDonald outlined a series of strategies and actions that will enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to rebuild trust with veterans and the American people, improve service delivery, and set the course for long-term excellence and reform.

Secretary McDonald’s meeting with SVAC Chairman Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (N.C.), HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (Fla.) and Ranking Member Mike Michaud (Maine) follows McDonald’s first testimony as Secretary before Congress and a meeting with FRA staff and representatives of 28 other Veterans Services Organizations (VSOs) to discuss his vision to reform and reorganize the department.

FRA and Others Ask Veteran’s Committee Leaders to Act on More VA Reforms
FRA and a number of other VSOs co-signed a letter to House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairmen and ranking members, thanking them for enacting the “Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act” (H.R. 3230) and urging them to move forward on other needed improvements that include:

  • Extending advanced (2-year) appropriations authority to the full VA budget (H.R. 813 & S. 932);
  • Honoring as veterans certain career reservists eligible for reserve retired pay (H.R. 679 & S. 629); and
  • Requiring more timely claims backlog reporting to Congress (H.R. 2189).

Shipmates can weigh in on these issues by going to the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) where we list the issues and corresponding bill numbers.

TMC Honors Lawmakers, Congressional Staff
The Military Coalition (TMC), a consortium of 33 military and veterans groups, presented its annual Awards of Merit to Senator Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Representative Jeff Miller (Fla.) in a Capitol Hill ceremony this week, honoring their respective efforts on behalf of the uniformed services community. The Coalition also presented its 2014 Freedom Award to Jake Cornett, legislative assistant to Senator Patty Murray (Wash.), and Brad Bowman, national security advisor to Senator Ayotte. The awards ceremony was held at the Reserve Officers Association Building on Capitol Hill.

Senator Ayotte was recognized for her invaluable assistance in repealing the one-percent cut in the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for military retirees under age 62, and Representative Miller was honored for his leadership in passing recently-enacted VA reform legislation that ensures veterans will receive the medical care they need in a timely fashion and mandates in-state tuition for all student veterans enrolled in public colleges.

DLP John Davis, TMC Co-chair, said, “We’re extremely gratified and proud to honor Senator Ayotte and Chairman Miller for their tremendous leadership in supporting the entire uniformed service community.” FRA VSO Chris Slawinsky also attended the event to share shipmates’ concerns with the Secretary and other officials present.

TMC represents the interests of more than 5.5 million members around the world, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and retired members and veterans of the seven uniformed services, plus their families and survivors. For more information visit www.themilitarycoalition.org.