FRA NewsBytes – 5-17-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Protect Beneficiaries Forced Out of TRICARE Prime
FRA Salutes Outstanding Sailors and Coast Guardsmen
Update on Sexual Assault in the Military
DoD Furloughs Take Effect July 2013

Protect Beneficiaries Forced Out of TRICARE Prime

Rep. John Kline (Minn.) introduced legislation (H.R. 1971) that would require the Defense Department (DoD) to offer the TRICARE Prime managed health care option in places where DoD plans to discontinue the program on October 1, 2013. The Pentagon announced earlier this year that TRICARE Prime Service Areas (PSA) will be limited to within 40 miles of active or former military bases, a move that will force 173,000 retirees and family members to switch to TRICARE Standard.

In a prepared statement, Kline said “Promises made should be promises kept and the Pentagon should not break faith with our nation’s heroes.” The legislation would help TRICARE Prime beneficiaries on a fixed income who might not be able to afford the extra cost associated with TRICARE Standard and “reduce the immediate impact imposed by the new policy by allowing military retirees to make informed decisions on how to best utilize their military retirement health care benefits while they consider future life decisions.”

The PSA change is viewed by beneficiaries as a reduction in earned benefits and FRA believes current TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who live in impacted areas should have continued access to TRICARE Prime coverage until they re-locate or change their current primary care provider. The Association has expressed this concern in recent congressional testimony and in meetings with legislators and their staff. FRA’s National Board of Directors (NBOD) also raised this issue during recent Capitol Hill visits on April 25, 2013.

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their representative to support this important legislation.

http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62672511

FRA Salutes Outstanding Sailors and Coast Guardsmen
On May 10th, FRA’s East Coast Regional President Don Hoover represented National President Mark Kilgore and the Association at ceremonies to honor the Coast Guard’s Enlisted Persons of the Year. Penny Collins, the Association’s director of Membership and Retention, also attended the events and FRA salutes BM1 Benjamin Snider, active duty Enlisted Person of the Year (EPOY), and YN1 Stepheni Norton, Reserve EPOY.

FRA also congratulates the Navy’s 2012 Sailors of the Year (SOY), who were meritoriously promoted to chief petty officers during ceremonies in the D.C. area this week. AWSC (NAC/AW) Brain W. DeNike, 2012 Reserve Sailor of the Year; CTNC(IDW/AW) Shannon N. McQueen, 2012 CNO Shore Sailor of the Year; ETC(AW/SW) Cheyenne N. Shasky,  2012 U.S. Fleet Forces Sailor of the Year and member of FRA Branch 293 (Elizabeth City, N.C.); and HMC(FMF) Joseph C. Santos, 2012 U.S. Pacific Fleet Sailor of the Year and member of FRA Branch 46 (Honolulu, Hawaii), participated in a variety of recognition events as part of SOY Week festivities. National Executive Director Joe Barnes, RPEC Hoover, Outreach Manager Bob Washington and Assistant Legislative Director Ed Dockery participated in several events, including an FRA-sponsored tour of the U.S. Capitol and a Capitol Hill luncheon for the SOYs and their families, and an advancement ceremony held yesterday at the U.S. Navy Memorial.  ;

Update on Sexual Assault in the Military
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), along with 15 original co-sponsors, introduced the “Military Justice Improvement Act” (S. 967) this week in the wake of a recent Pentagon report indicating that an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the military during FY 2012. This reflects a 37-percent increase in reported assault cases from FY 2011 and the report states that more than one in five female service members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military.

The legislation would remove the decision about taking a sexual assault case to special or general court-martial completely out of the chain of command and give that discretion to experienced military prosecutors. The bill would also apply to all military crimes that are punishable by one year or more in confinement, except crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or being absent without leave (AWOL).

Although the legislation is receiving bi-partisan support, some legislators have expressed concerns that the measure goes too far. Rep. Michael Turner (Ohio), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, believes “It’s far too soon to take a hatchet to the judicial system. The problem is a cultural issue.”

The legislation also seeks to:

  • Change Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) so that the convening authority may not set aside a guilty finding or change a finding to guilty of a lesser offense;
  • Provide the offices of the military chiefs of staff with the authority and discretion to establish courts, empanel juries and choose judges to hear cases; and

Maintain the authority of commanding officers to order non-judicial punishment for offenses not directed to trial by the prosecutors.

President Obama also met with Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon officials this week to discuss sexual assault in the military. Following another report of a military sexual-assault prevention officer accused of “abusive sexual contact,” Hagel issued an emergency order to retrain and rescreen all 9,000 service members tasked with preventing sexual assault.

DoD Furloughs Take Effect July 2013
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel notified 680,000 Department of Defense (DoD) civilian workers that they will be furloughed for 11 days without pay between July 8 and September 30, 2013. The Pentagon has excluded thousands of workers at shipyards, civilian workers in combat zones, and in critical public safety jobs from the furlough mandate, and approximately 11,000 civilian workers at DoD schools will be limited to five days of unpaid leave.  Overall DoD has excluded 15 percent of its civilian workforce from furlough and the notification further reduces the number of furlough days from the originally-estimated 22 and the later prediction of 14 days without pay.