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AFSA Legislation September 2017
1. Congress Returns Tomorrow. Look for a Short-Term CR. Congress returns to Washington tomorrow. Multiple sources have indicated, especially
with the need for hurricane-relief legislation, that Congress will most likely vote for a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the
government after 30 September. Most feel that Congress will look at approving a 3-month CR to "buy time" to deal with other pressing priorities.
Most government agencies, including Defense, dislike a CR because it freezes funding at prior-year levels and stops the initiation of any new programs. As reported earlier, the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee has asked SECDEF Mattis, by 8 September, to tell Congress what the impact would be of a 3-month or a 6-month CR.
2. President Calls for 2.1 Percent Military Pay Raise. The Washington Times reports, "President Trump has used his executive authority to give uniformed service members and federal civilian employees a pay raise next year, notifying Congress of the move in two letters Thursday. In line
with his budget proposal, Mr. Trump designated a 2.1 percent pay hike for members of the military and 1.9 percent for the federal civilian workers.
The pay increases take effect Jan. 1."
You can read the entire article at:
Note: The President's "declaration" is not the final word on these raises. In its version of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House in section 601 reads: "The adjustment in the rates of monthly basic pay required by subsection (a) of section 1009 of title 37, United States Code, to be made on January 1, 2018, shall take effect, notwithstanding any determination made by the President under subsection (e) of such section with respect to an alternative pay adjustment to be made on such date." That means that the House is clearly calling for the 2.4 percent military pay raise specified by current law (in title 37). The House supports this raise in order to allow military members and their families to keep pace with the economy.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and his committee, as it did each year during the second term of the Obama Administration, again would deny the military this equitable pay raise as specified in title 37. However, the President's proposal is not binding, and can be superseded if Congress as a whole passes its final NDAA with the 2.4 percent raise, and the President signs the NDAA. See this AFSA Action letter: https://www.votervoice.net/AFSA/Campaigns/54251/Respond
3. Time to Legislatively Settle Annual Debt Ceiling Debate? An article in the Washington Post raises the question that it just might be time to retire the annual national debt ceiling debate. Each year, markets worry and political threats are made. Yet, ultimately, the debt ceiling is normally raised to allow our nation to meet its borrowing obligations. Although the article points more toward one side than the other, it is interesting nonetheless.
To read the points made toward legislating an act to end this annual debate, go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/its-time-for-congress-to-retire-one-of-its-most-dangerous-weapons/2017/09/02/4adf4330-8f35-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html
4. New, 3-Step VA Claims Appeal Process. An article in the News Tribune by journalist Tom Philpott, tells us, ". . . the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, signed Aug. 23. . . gives veterans options for appeal better suited to individual circumstances. When a claim
is denied, or a disability rating award disappoints, they will have three options to appeal. "Lane one is Local Higher-Level of Review. Veterans can request that a more experienced claims adjudicator review the same evidence considered by the original claims processor. The idea is to ensure that it was properly decided. "A second choice, the New Evidence lane, allows a veteran who has new evidence to support the claim to ask the Veterans Benefits Administration to reconsider the merits of the original claim based on that new information. "The third lane is a formal appeals process where jurisdiction for review transfers to the Board of Veterans Appeals. The veteran at this stage also can seek a hearing before a judge to review the case and that could include new evidence." To read more on this, go to: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/business/article170569102.html
5. Majority of Young Americans Obese, Unqualified to Serve in Military. According to the Washington Examiner, "The 14th Annual State of Obesity:
Better Policies for a Healthier America report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation bluntly reported that 70 percent of the nation is obese or overweight. And while the rate of obesity growth is leveling off, the costs aren't. The report, for example, said
additional health care for obese adults and children is $150 billion a year and billions of dollars more in lost worker productivity.
"It is also costly to the military, said the report. Nearly one-quarter of military recruits are rejected because they are obese and it costs the
Pentagon $1 billion a year in added health care costs for obese troops and their families. More stunning, said the comprehensive 101-page report: "70 percent of today's youth are not fit to serve in the military due to obesity or being overweight, criminal records, drug misuse or educational
deficits." You can read the entire article which provides more data at:
6. VA only filling half of its medical appointments while veterans wait for weeks. Veterans are waiting on average about 30 days before a medical appointment can be scheduled; meanwhile the VA is filling about only half of its capacity to make medical appointments. "The VA documents show that between July and September of 2017, the agency only used 51.44 percent of the appointments available across its healthcare system. "VA documents also show there are currently 184,520 veterans across the nation waiting longer than 30 days for an appointment and more than 45,000
new veteran patients waiting more than 90 days. Internal VA documents also indicate 479,239 veterans nationwide are waiting for physician requested follow-up appointments over 30 days for the period July to September 2017." To learn more about this ongoing issue, click here https://www.votervoice.net/BroadcastLinks/9xL1R7x1Bqh3BPBkGRhSkg.
7. Transgender service members can re-enlist while review continues. Despite President Trump's tweets and remarks about the transgender
community, "Transgender service members can re-enlist if their service contracts expire while the Defense Department continues studying the
implementation of President Trump's directive banning their service, according to Col Robert Manning, the Pentagon spokesperson.
"Secretary of Defense James Mattis released interim guidance yesterday directing Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva to lead in developing an implementation plan to address transgender service, according to Manning. "'The implementation plan will establish the policy, standards and procedures to address military service by transgender individuals of the military,' Manning told reporters." To learn more about the implementation plan, click here
8. President Calls for End to Sequestration. President Trump urged Congress on Friday to end the mandatory budget cuts that have held down defense spending, just a day after the Senate rejected a vote on the matter. With sequestration still looming, neither Trump's requested $639 billion defense budget nor the larger $700 billion NDAA crafted by McCain can pass without a deal in Congress to raise budget caps. Otherwise, the bills will trigger the deep sequester cuts. Source article: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-takes-aim-at-defense-sequester-a-day
9. Social Security/Military Retiree COLAs for 2018. On October 13th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the September 2017 inflation measurement. That will tell us what the 2018 cost-of-living allowance for Social Security Recipients and military/federal retirees will be. It is expected to edge higher than 1.9 percent due to the impact on oil/gas prices caused by Hurricane Harvey.
10. Disaster Benefits End Soon for TRICARE Beneficiaries hit by Hurricanes. TRICARE patients affected by recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma were given "access to broader health care benefits as relief efforts continue, but some of those benefits are about to run out." The Military Times outlines TRICARE "procedures allowing for emergency prescription refills and for the waiver of the referral requirement are in place in some of the affected areas where governors have declared states of emergency." You can read more about this at: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/14/us-consumer-price-index-aug-2017.html
If you ever have a legislative quality of life item you would like to be reviewed by ASFA HQ please send me the details. You may think it only impacts you when it may impact many members.