FRA NewsBytes – 6-21-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Comparison of House and Senate Defense Bills
FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Event
NED Speaks at ALA Congressional Caucus
Happy 115th Birthday, Navy Corpsmen
Flag Code Online Outdated

Comparison of House and Senate Defense Bills

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 1960) passed the House last Friday (315-108). The Senate version of the legislation (S. 1197) has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

Neither bill authorizes the increases to TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees (Prime, Standard and TRICARE-for-Life) that were requested in the Administration’s FY 2014 budget, and the bills differ on military pay  the House authorized a 1.8-percent pay hike, while the Senate capped the increase at 1.0 percent.  The House bill also requires the Defense Department (DoD) to make a one-time offer of continue coverage for TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who live in areas where the Prime option will be discontinued as of October 1, 2013. The House-approved version of the bill also authorizes “veteran status” for members of the Reserve Component who served 20 or more years. The Senate bill mandates the Military lending Act (MLA) be enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and allows retirees participating in the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) to designate that benefits go into a Special Needs Trust for di sabled children.

Both versions have extensive, albeit different, provisions aimed at preventing sexual assault, improving prosecution of perpetrators and protecting victims of sexual assault. Currently both bills reduce overall military end strength by 40,000 (7,100 cut in Marine Corps manpower and 900 increase in Navy end strength.) and provide additional Impact Aid ($25 million) for public schools serving children of military personnel. Although the full Senate has yet to debate its version of the legislation and Senate floor amendments are yet to be filed, neither bill addresses improvements for concurrent receipt; repeal of SBP/DIC offset, reform of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) and other improvements the Association supports. And neither version accounts for FY 2014 DoD sequestration cuts of $52 billion that will take effect if alternative spending cuts are not approved prior to September 30, 2013.

Once both chambers approve their respective bills, a conference committee will reconcile the differences between the two measures.

FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Event
FRA hosted its 15th annual Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast this week, an event designed to expand awareness of the Coast Guard’s remarkable service to our nation and promote dialogue between members of Congress and key Coast Guard leaders.

The Caucus is a bipartisan group of 78 lawmakers who share a common interest in the Coast Guard, co-chaired by Representatives Howard Coble (N.C.), the only USCG veteran serving in Congress; Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Rick Larsen (Wash.) and Joe Courtney (Conn.).  Other lawmakers in attendance included Representatives John Garamendi (Calif.), who is the Ranking Member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee; Rob Wittman (Va.) and Delegate Donna M.C. Christensen (Virgin Islands), who all praised the versatile, multi-mission service of USCG. FRA PNP Jeff Gilmartin and East Coast Regional President Don Hoover also attended the event.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG) Michael Leavitt introduced Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Bob Papp at the Capitol Hill event, who reminded lawmakers and staff members of the challenges facing the service. Papp acknowledged FRA’s long-standing and strong commitment to the Coast Guard and thanked NED Joe Barnes for his role in helping establish and sustain the Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast. Papp and Rep. Joe Courtney provided a brief update on the planned construction of the U.S. Coast Guard Museum in New London, Conn., and the Commandant also thanked the CPO community for their successful fundraising efforts to refurbish the 85-year old Coast Guard Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.

NED Speaks at ALA Congressional Caucus
FRA National Executive Director Joe Barnes spoke about current compensation and benefit issues at the American Logistics Association Congressional Caucus and Public Policy Forum this week on Capitol Hill. The event focused on all aspects of the military resale system (commissaries and exchanges), including serious threats to sustaining these important programs due to DoD budget cuts and the possibility of additional arbitrary sequestration cuts in 2014 and beyond. Other speakers included Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (Calif.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee; and Reps. Joe Wilson (S.C.) and Susan Davis (Calif.), the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Personnel Subcommittee.

Happy 115th Birthday, Navy Corpsmen
This week marks the 115th anniversary of the Navy Hospital Corps and FRA salutes the brave men and women who provide quality care and heartfelt compassion at home, aboard ship and in the field of combat.

FRA’s Education Foundation offers a special scholarship for children of enlisted Navy corpsmen who serve or have served with Marine units.  Thanks to an endowment from Col. Hazel Elizabeth Benn, the Foundation provides a $2,000 scholarship to qualified applicants entering their freshman or sophomore year of college. Applications for the 2014 Benn and other FRA Education Foundation scholarships will be available after September 1, 2013.

Flag Code Online Outdated
Thanks to Shipmate Ron Stanton (Retired Navy Chief) from Linden, Calif., who noticed that U.S. Flag code website (referenced in last week’s Newsbytes) is out-of-date. The FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes veterans the option to salute during hoisting, lowering, or passing of the flag. The FY 2009 NDAA allows veterans the option to salute during the playing of the National Anthem, which is not mentioned on the website.  FRA staff contacted the website administrator to request an appropriate update.