FRA NewsBytes January 16, 2015

FRA Newsbytes 01/16/2015

FRA Newsbytes 01/16/2015

In this issue:
Concurrent Receipt Bills Introduced
Flag Desecration Amendment Introduced
House Passes Bill to Reduce Military and Veteran Suicides


Concurrent Receipt Bills Introduced
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) introduced the “Retired Pay Restoration Act” (H.R. 303), which would expand the eligibility of retirees with less than 50 percent disability rating to receive service-connected disability from VA and their full retirement pay for retirees eligible for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP). Currently, only CRDP disability disabled retirees with a rating of 50 percent or more are eligible for concurrent receipt. Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.) has also introduced comprehensive concurrent receipt reform (HR 333) that includes disabled retirees with CRDP less than 50 percent and CRDP (Chapter 61) medically retired (less than 20 years of service). Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to contact their representative to ask their support for these proposals.
Flag Desecration Amendment Introduced
Rep. Steve Womack (Ark.) has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment (H.J. Res. 9) to allow Congress to pass a law to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. Many brave men and women who serve and have served in the armed services feel deeply about the dignity of “Old Glory.” The physical desecration of this symbol of democracy and freedom is an affront to them and the memory of those who died in the service to this nation.

Members are urged to use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their representative to vote for this proposed constitutional amendment.
House Passes Bill to Reduce Military and Veteran Suicides
The House this week passed the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act” (H.R. 203), sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.). The act is intended to reduce suicides among military personnel and veterans. The House Speaker John Boehner (Oh.) “fast-tracked” the bill under suspension of the rules that bypasses committee, prohibits any amendments, and requires a two-thirds vote.

The measure (HR 203) requires an annual third-party review of mental health and suicide prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and at the Defense Department (DoD). It also would mandate a more thorough assessment of discharges from military service for those diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI). The bill requires the VA to create a website to provide veterans with more information about mental health services.

“Once again, the House took an important step to help stop the epidemic of veteran suicides. It’s time for comprehensive new ideas to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of mental health care available to our veterans, and that’s exactly what the Clay Hunt SAV Act would provide,” Speaker Boehner said.

The House already passed the bill in December at the end of the last session of Congress, but Sen. Tom Coburn, (Okla.), held it up in the Senate because he thought it was redundant and expensive. With Coburn now retired, the measure is expected to be approved in the Senate. Members can use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their Senators to pass this legislation onto the president to be signed into law