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Nov 13

FRA NewsBytes November 13, 2015

FRA Newsbytes 11/13/2015

FRA Newsbytes 11/13/2015

In this issue:
Senate Passes Revised NDAA
Sen. Sullivan Lays Wreath at Marine Corps Memorial on 240th Anniversary
Problems Continue for Vets Trying to get Mental Health Care at VA
FRA National President Visits Arlington National Cemetery to Honor Veterans


Senate Passes Revised NDAA
The U.S. Senate passed a revised version of the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday, November 10. The revised $607 billion legislation was approved in the Senate with a 91–3 vote and made it through the House of Representatives last week with a 370–58 vote.

President Obama’s signature will be the next step for the legislation. The president vetoed the original $612 billion version because of extra war funding in the 2016 Department of Defense budget. Some of the cuts to the new version include $250 million to Obama’s counterterrorism fund, $250 million to Military readiness and a little more than a billion in fuel savings.

The bill also includes provisions that ban the transfer of prisoners to United States soil, which has long been a core component of the administration’s plan to close the Guantánamo prison. A White House spokesman said President Obama would sign it despite provisions that will make it extremely difficult for him to fulfill his promise of closing the terrorist detention center.
Sen. Sullivan Lays Wreath at Marine Corps Memorial on 240th Anniversary
On Tuesday, November 10, NP Virgil Courneya, ADLP Stephen Tassin, and ADVP Brian Condon attended the Marine Corps Birthday event at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. The keynote speaker was Senator Dan Sullivan (Alaska) who is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He stated that “The title of Marine is my proudest achievement. It always has been and always will be. The Marine Corps symbolizes all that’s good about our country: honor, integrity, grit. But a symbol is only as enduring as the real thing it represents. In this case, real men and women who exemplify excellence and honor, from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli; from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage, Alaska. As long as our Marines—young and old, on active duty and retired—continue to stand for effectiveness, excellence and being there for our fellow citizens, both on and off the battlefield, we’ll have at least 240 more birthdays to celebrate.” Following the senator’s Speech, alongside Commandant General Robert Neller and Sergeant Major Ronald Green he laid a wreath at the Memorial in honor of Marines who died in the line of duty.
Problems Continue for Vets Trying to get Mental Health Care at VA
A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the VA is still struggling to manage patients’ schedules, at least in the mental health care arena where some veterans have waited nine months for evaluations. A review of 100 patient cases by the GAO found that while 86 patients seeking an initial mental health evaluation generally were seen within an average four days of scheduling an appointment, they actually waited an average of 26 days from their first request for mental health treatment to get that appointment, and some waited up to 279 days.

GAO also found that at one medical center, schedulers were not using the VA’s appointment system and were managing appointments manually—a practice that sidesteps oversight and, in the scandal that exploded last year, drew allegations of scheduling failures and use of “secret wait lists.”

“The way in which the Department of Veterans Affairs calculates veteran mental health wait times may not always reflect the overall amount of time a veteran waits for care,” Debra Draper, GAO’s health care director, said.
FRA National President Visits Arlington National Cemetery to Honor Veterans
The annual Veterans Day ceremonies included an amazing opportunity for FRA’s National President, Virgil Courneya, to lay a wreath in Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Also in attendance were NED Tom Snee, NSD Chris Slawinski, RPEC Penny Collins, LAFRA NP Helen Courneya and keynote speaker President Barack Obama. In addition to laying his wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, President Obama spoke about some veterans’ issues concerning current and recently separated service members. “We’re in the midst of a new wave of American veterans,” indicating that the Veterans Affairs will have to adapt in order to provide for a new generation of veterans while also caring for past veterans. The President went on to say, “We have made historic investments to boost the VA budget, expand benefits, offer more mental-health care and improved care for our wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.”

He also pointed out that not all gains have been on health care issues. Returning service members have historically had a difficult time finding employment after their military service. Today their jobless rate is at 4.6 percent, which is a significant drop from just a few years ago. He goes on to say there is still a need to do more for veterans and that their contributions to civilian sector positions are good for everyone.

Earlier in the day, the national president attended a breakfast reception with President Obama, other veterans and their families in the East Room of the White House.