FRA NewsBytes – 6-07-1

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
HASC Approves Defense Authorization Bill
New Agent Orange Bill Introduced
SASC Holds Hearing on Military Sexual Assault
FRA Defends Military Resale System and Other Benefits
Remembering D-Day
HASC Approves Defense Authorization Bill

The House Armed Services Committee marked up and approved the House version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R.1960) this week. The panel accepted all of the recommendations of the Military Personnel Subcommittee (referenced in 5/24/13 edition of NewsBytes), including a full 1.8-percent active duty pay increase, the rejection of the Administration’s request for TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) and TRICARE Standard enrollment fees and drastic increases in TRICARE Prime enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays.  The Committee bill also requires the Defense Department (DoD) to make a one-time offer of continued coverage to TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who live in areas where the Prime option will be discontinued as of October 1, 2013.

The committee also adopted an amendment that would authorize “veteran status” for members of the Reserve Component who served 20 or more years. These Guard and Reserve personnel are considered military retirees, but do not qualify for veteran status under current policy.

The Committee’s mark also includes a variety of provisions that seek to prevent sexual assault, improve prosecution of sexual assault perpetrators, and protect victims of sexual assault.

The bill now moves to the House floor for further consideration, perhaps as early as next week. The Senate Armed Services’ subcommittees begin markups of the Senate’s version of the bill on June 11, 2013. Once both chambers approve their respective versions of the NDAA, a conference committee will reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills.  Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center at www.fra.org to share their views with lawmakers on these and other pending issues that impact their hard-earned benefits.

New Agent Orange Bill Introduced
Rep. Chris Gibson (N.Y.) recently introduced the “Blue Water Navy Ship Accountability Act” (H.R. 1494) that requires the United States Army and DoD’s Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) to do a comprehensive search to determine which ships operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. Service members serving on those ships would be eligible for a presumption of Agent Orange exposure when filing a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Earlier this year, Gibson also introduced the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R. 543) that clarifies a presumption for ailments associated with exposure to Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War. The bill would authorize those who served off the coast of Vietnam, so-called “blue water vets,” to claim disability benefits from the VA.

FRA believes Congress should recognize that these veterans were exposed to Agent Orange and authorize VA presumption associated with this exposure. Shipmates are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their representative to support these important proposals.

To support H.R.1494. go to:

http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62591481

To support H.R. 543, go to:

http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62387291

SASC Holds Hearing on Military Sexual Assault
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) held a hearing this week to address what the Pentagon has labeled an “epidemic” of sexual assault in the military. The chairman of the Joint Chefs of Staff and senior leaders of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army and Air Force testified at the hearing, stating that sexual assault is criminal behavior and citing its negative impact on unit discipline and readiness. The military leaders also sent a letter to SASC Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (Okla.) indicating their opposition to legislative proposals that would give uniformed prosecutors, rather than commanders, the authority to investigate sexual assault accusations. They claim that change would undermine the chain of command and send a message that commanders can not be trusted.

A Pentagon report indicates that there were 26,000 sexual assaults in 2012 and that only 3,600 incidents were reported and less than one percent of reported cases resulted in a conviction.

FRA Defends Military Resale System and Other Benefits
In response to a prominent front page story in the Washington Post on Sunday, June 2, 2013, NED Joe Barnes wrote to the paper’s editors to clarify misinformation in the story about the military resale system and criticism about benefit enhancements enacted since 2000.   He stated that the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is highly efficient and well run, and that major benefit improvements during the past 12 years were enacted to address “a 13.5-percent pay gap, readiness and retention challenges, concerns about a ‘hollow force’ and to honor the government’s broken promises to those who served in the past.”  He also cited military compensation, health care, retirement and other benefit programs as essential to sustaining the All Volunteer Force and ensuring our national security and equally, if not more, important than growing entitlement and social programs.

Read the entire letter at http://www.fra.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=News&CONTENTID=15253&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm

Remembering D-Day
This week marks the 69th anniversary of the World War II invasion of Normandy, France, by Allied troops. Commonly referred to as D-Day, it was the largest naval invasion in history and eventually led to the end of the war in Europe.   FRA salutes all WWII veterans on this special anniversary, particularly those who fought on June 6, 1944.