FRA NewsBytes November 21, 2014

FRA Newsbytes 11/21/2014

FRA Newsbytes 11/21/2014

In this issue:
Defense Authorization Update
Congress Recognizes FRA’s 90th Anniversary
HVAC has Oversight Hearing on Veteran’s Choice Card
FRA NHQ Holiday Schedule

Defense Authorization Update
Hill staff has indicated that negotiations over the final version of the FY 2015 Defense Authorization bill have stalled over a provision in the Senate version of the bill (S. 2410) that would increase pharmacy co-pays for military retirees under age 65. The House bill (H.R. 4435) does not increase pharmacy co-pays. Shipmates are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their senators to support amendments that would eliminate the pharmacy co-pay increase from the measure.
Congress Recognizes FRA’s 90th Anniversary
Representative Joe Wilson (S.C.), chairman of the House Armed Services’ Military Personnel Subcommittee, congratulated FRA on its 90th anniversary and his comments are now part of the Congressional Record. He thanked the Association for its “unwavering commitment to support the needs of our active duty, Reserves, and retired military members.” Wilson also thanked FRA Past National President Virgil Courneya and current National President John Ippert for their dedication and hard work in supporting, maintaining, and improving the quality of life for current, past and future Sea Service personnel and their families.

A copy of the Congressional Record is available at: https://www.congress.gov/crec/2014/11/17/CREC-2014-11-17-pt1-PgE1604-2.pdf.
HVAC has Oversight Hearing on Veteran’s Choice Card
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) held a hearing to evaluate the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (VACAA) that was recently signed into law (P.L. 113-146). The new law provides a $10 billion fund to pay for non-VA care for veterans who live 40 or more miles from a VA facility or have had to wait more than 30 days to receive care. VA began mailing “Choice Cards” in August to veterans who were enrolled in the VA health care system and recently-discharged combat veterans who enroll within the five-year window of eligibility.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told committee members that Choice cards have been distributed to all “40 milers” and those waiting 30 days or more are scheduled to receive theirs by the first week of December. All other enrollees will receive Choice cards by the end of January. FRA supported the VACAA and is monitoring implementation of the Choice Card. To learn more about the Choice Program, click here: http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact.

The new law also makes it easier to terminate VA employees for inferior performance on the job. During the hearing, Gibson answered questions regarding the 1,000 VA employees, including 42 senior executives, who are currently pending termination for poor job performance. Several committee members, including Chairman Jeff Miller (Fla.) and Ranking Member Michael Michaud (Maine), expressed frustration with the slow speed with which VA is acting to complete those removals.
FRA NHQ Holiday Schedule
The FRA National Headquarters (NHQ) will be closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. There will be no NewsBytes next week and the next edition will be sent on December 5, 2014.