FRA NewsBytes – 3-15-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Protect Significance of Purple Heart and Bronze Star
Stolen Valor Legislation Advances
FRA Co-Sponsors House Guard and Reserve Caucus
FRA, Consumer Groups Discuss Military Predatory Lending Protections

Protect Significance of Purple Heart and Bronze Star

FRA supports legislation introduced in the House (HR 833), sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, and the Senate (S. 470), sponsored by Montana Senator Jon Tester, to ensure that the Bonze Star and Purple Heart combat medals rank ahead of a new medal honoring service away from the front lines.  The bills are in response to a recent Department of Defense (DoD) announcement that the Distinguished Warfare Medal will recognize extraordinary achievement of unmanned aerial vehicle pilots and cyber warriors, and will be authorized for wear above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, both of which are awarded only for battlefield service.

Recognizing valor in combat has profound and significant meaning within the military community and FRA believes that recognition for non-combat service should not supersede combat-related awards. FRA National President Mark Kilgore and numerous other leaders of military and veteran organizations signed a letter to President Obama asking his personal involvement to lower the new Distinguished Warfare Medal’s standing in the military medals’ order of precedence.

In response to these concerns, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has directed a 30-day study be conducted to review the policy associated with the new medal.

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to support these legislative proposals.  Direct link:
http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62493111

Stolen Valor Legislation Advances
The House Judiciary Committee this week approved the “Stolen Valor Act” (H.R. 258), sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck (Nev.). The FRA-supported measure seeks to protect the integrity of military awards by making it a crime to knowingly benefit from making fraudulent claims about military decorations.

In June of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned (United States v Alvarez) a similar law on the grounds that it infringed on constitutionally-protected free speech. FRA supported the earlier legislation and signed on to a Friend of the Court (Amicus) brief when the case was considered by the high court. The current legislation should withstand constitutional scrutiny because it more narrowly focuses on those who seek to benefit from misrepresentation of military service  not the lie itself. The legislation now moves to the House floor for further consideration.

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their representative to vote for this legislation. Direct link:
http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62354266

FRA Co-Sponsors House Guard and Reserve Caucus
FRA joined 12 other military and veterans’ organizations in cosponsoring the 16th annual House Reserve Component Caucus Breakfast on Capitol Hill this week. Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Tim Walz (Minn.) cochair the bipartisan caucus and attendees included caucus members, officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Reserve Component senior enlisted leaders and members of key military associations, including FRA.

The keynote speaker was Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs) Paul D. Patrick, who is a former Army Reserve Major General. He discussed the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review (2014) and its potential impact on the Reserve Component, and predicted constrained budgets for Defense for the foreseeable future, resulting in active duty end-strength reductions. This will require the Reserve Component to remain as an integral and important operational reserve force.  He suggested that Reservists will likely be required to undertake at least one 12-month deployment during six-year enlistments.

FRA, Consumer Groups Discuss Military Predatory Lending Protections
FRA, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Office of Service Members Affairs, and a number of consumer groups met this week with Department of Defense (DoD) officials to discuss recently enacted improvements to the Military Lending Act (MLA). Provisions of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA  H.R. 4310 – P. L. 112-239) direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct a new study of credit products and practices that harm military borrowers, confer with consumer advocacy groups regarding the study, and promulgate a regulation in 2013 to implement changes in the law.  FRA and others in the meeting urged DoD to include more clearly delineated definitions of payday and car title loans in the regulation to address existing loopholes in current protections.