FRA NewsBytes January 23, 2015

FRA Newsbytes 01/23/2015

FRA Newsbytes 01/23/2015

In this issue:
MCRMC Report is Due Soon
State of the Union Address
SVAC Approves Bill to Reduce Military and Veteran Suicides
Permanent Doc Fix Discussed in House Subcommittee
New Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

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MCRMC Report is Due Soon
The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) is scheduled to make its report to Congress on February 1, and your FRA legislative team is anxious to review it and state our position on its recommendations. The commission is reviewing every aspect of the military compensation systems, including healthcare, military family support, and more. The commission’s recommendations to Congress and the president will undoubtedly propose drastic changes to benefits and pay. The report’s recommendations will be limited to future service members, retirees and veterans, but Congress has no such restriction on legislation and could make retroactive recommendations that will impact current active duty and Reserve personnel, veterans, and retirees.

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to add their support to FRA’s position on the committee’s recommendations. Your voice enhances our action by communicating with YOUR Congressional top three: your two Senators and your Representative. The subject of this report is one of our pillars that we need to push forward.

 

State of the Union Address
This week, President Obama gave his seventh State of the Union address to Congress, just two months after his party lost control of the Senate in the 2014 election. In the hour-long address, he claimed that an improving economy has vindicated his economic policies. He called for national unity and threatened House and Senate Republican majorities with vetoes of key legislation. He claimed the nation is safer today from terrorism as he marked the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. He did not mention the recent scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and made only a passing reference to eliminating the disability claims backlog at the VA.

The State of the Union address is mandated by the Constitution and is a communication from the president to Congress in which the chief executive reports on current issues and his legislative agenda for the year. Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt, presidents have expanded the audience to include the nation. Technology has influenced the address with the advent of radio, television and the Internet.

Immediately following the address, the political party not occupying the White House provides an opposition response. In recent years, a spokesperson from the Tea Party has also responded to the address.
SVAC Approves Bill to Reduce Military and Veteran Suicides
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) approved, without amendment, the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act” (H.R. 203), sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.). As reported in last week’s NewsBytes, the bill passed the House unanimously.

The measure requires an annual third-party review of mental health and suicide prevention programs by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Defense Department (DoD). It also mandates 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 also requires the VA to create a website to provide veterans with more information about mental health services.

The measure is named for a 28-year-old Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who committed suicide in 2011. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, (Ga.), said after the unanimous committee vote that he hoped that the full Senate will quickly pass the bill and send it on to the president to be signed into law.
Permanent Doc Fix Discussed in House Subcommittee
The Senate Finance, Health Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss reforming the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) that determines doctor reimbursements for Medicare and TRICARE patients. The threat of significant cuts (22 percent) to reimbursement rates for physicians seeing Medicare and TRICARE patients was only delayed last year from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015. The cost of making the temporary “Doc Fix” permanent has been estimated at $130 billion over 10 years. One of the tasks of the subcommittee is to seek offsets to the estimated cost. FRA believes the “cost” of making the doc fix permanent is an illusion since Congress has never and probably will never allow the SGR be fully implemented because it would make most physicians unable to afford to see TRICARE and Medicare patients. The Association strongly supports a permanent solution (the “Doc Fix”) by establishing sufficient reimbursement rates to ensure beneficiaries have continued a ccess to quality medical care. Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their elected officials to make the “Doc Fix” permanent.
New Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
On February 20, 2015, Sergeant Major Ronald Green will become the 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps—the top enlisted Marine in the Corps and Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford’s senior enlisted adviser. Green’s dynamic leadership is known throughout the ranks of the Marine Corps, and his experiences during peacetime and combat make him well-suited for the job, Dunford said in a statement.

Green, now the sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., has spent 31 years in the Marine Corps and is an artilleryman by training. He has served as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. He was selected to the rank of sergeant major in December 2004. He served in Iraq in 2005, deploying with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 as a unit sergeant major. He later completed a deployment to Afghanistan.

Green has previously advised general officers as sergeant major of Marine Forces Europe and of Headquarters and Service Battalion at Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., and as sergeant major of Marine Forces Europe and Africa in Stuttgart, Germany.

The post of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was established in 1957 as the senior enlisted advisor to the commandant of the Marine Corps, the first such post in any branch of the United States Armed Forces. The sergeant major of the Marine Corps is selected by the commandant, and typically serves a four-year term, though his service is at the pleasure of the commandant.