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NewsBytes June 21, 2019



In this issue:

Agent Orange Bill Sent to President
FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast
Acting SecDef Resigns
Happy Birthday Navy Corpsmen

Agent Orange Bill Enrolled and Sent to President
NED Thomas Snee attended a bill enrolling ceremony for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R.299), hosted by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Enrollment occurs in the chamber where the measure originated and is carried out by enrolling clerks under the supervision of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate. Enrolled bills are signed by the presiding officers of each chamber (or their designees) and are presented to the President by the House Clerk or Secretary of the Senate, depending on the chamber of origination. The President can either sign it into law or veto the bill. 

As a result of the Procopio v. Wilkie decision, the House and Senate passed the FRA-supported Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R.299). This legislation will essentially codify the Procopio decision into law. The FRA is listed as a "friend of the court" by the petitioner Blue Water Navy Veteran, Mr. Procopio.

FRA Hosts 21st Annual Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast
The Fleet Reserve Association hosted the 21st annual Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast. It is an event meant to expand awareness of the Coast Guard's missions, remarkable service to our nation and promote dialogue between members of Congress and key Coast Guard leaders. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz was the keynote speaker at the event. The Commandant said he did not want the Coast Guard to be held hostage again during budget battles on Capitol Hill and his primary focus is improving readiness.  He noted that the Coast Guard has personnel in the Persian Gulf, AFRICOM and in the South China Sea. He also mentioned their important work to intercept illegal drugs coming into the United States. The commandant engaged Representatives in attendance and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG) Jason Vanderhaven. There were several Coast Guard officers and senior enlisted leaders who discussed the needs of Coast Guard personnel.

The legislators who were in attendance included Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Ted Yoho (Fla.), Ralph Abraham (La.), Neal Dunn (Fla.), Carol Miller (W.Va.), and Joe Courtney (Conn.).  

Acting SecDef Resigns
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, who was nominated by President Trump to be Secretary of Defense, abruptly resigned from the Department of Defense, siting an upcoming story in the news media about family domestic abuse. 

Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army, is set to become the new acting Defense secretary next week. But he would be legally required to temporarily step aside if President Trump decides to nominate him to remain in the post.

Happy Birthday Navy Corpsmen
A Navy Corpsman is an enlisted U.S. Navy medical specialist. Congress passed a bill authorizing establishment of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps, signed into law by President William McKinley on June 17, 1898. Corpsmen work in a wide variety of capacities and locations, including shore establishments such as naval hospitals and clinics, aboard ships and as the primary medical caregivers for sailors while underway. Navy Corpsmen are frequently the only medical care-giver available in many fleet or Marine units on extended deployment. In addition, corpsmen perform duties as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injury and assist health care professionals in providing medical care to sailors and their families. 



The info below is from the latest FRA HQ NewsBytes:


SASC Marks up and Approves NDAA
The Senate Armed Services, Personnel Subcommittee and the Senate Committee (in closed session) approved the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-S.1215). The subcommittee added 54 amendments. The FRA submitted a written statement listing issues of importance to FRA members, to the subcommittee a week before the hearing. A copy of the statement is available 
on the website under FRA Advocacy. Since the SASC approved the bill in a closed session, an actual text of the bill was not available at press time. According to staff and press accounts the provisions in the markup include: 

  • Cutting military medical staff billets;

  • Increasing military end strength by 7,700 (Navy 5,000 & Marines 100);

  • Increasing active duty pay (3.1%), which keeps pace with civilian pay increases;

  • Providing $40 million in impact aid funding for schools with large military populations; 

  • Expanding active duty parental leave benefits;

  • Beefing up oversight of privatized military housing; 

  • Providing military justice provisions aimed at better prosecuting sexual assault;

  • Increasing military construction spending for military housing and day care centers; and

  • Increasing employment opportunities for military spouses. 

The FRA opposes the proposed drastic cuts in military medical staff. The Defense Department's FY2020 budget calls for the elimination of about 18,000 military medical positions from the current 130,000. FRA is concerned that such drastic cuts could impact access and quality of care for retirees, active duty members and their families. These proposed cuts could also impact combat casualty care capabilities. FRA is also disappointed that there are apparently no provisions addressing concurrent receipt, SBP/DIC offset repeal, and allowing a widow to retain the final month's pay of a military retiree for the month in which the member was alive for at least one day, just to name a few. 

The bill now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration and a vote for passage. The FRA is working to get floor amendments filed, debated and approved. The House Armed Services Committee will begin its markup of the NDAA in June. 

Once both chambers of Congress approve their legislation a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills. This final version will then be voted on by both chambers of Congress and if approved, will be sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.   

Members are urged to use the 
FRA Action Center located on the FRA website to ask their legislators to delay and closely review the proposed cuts of nearly 18,000 military medical billets.  

House Approves Veteran's Bills 
The House passed several bipartisan bills that support veterans' transition to civilian life, improve veterans' economic resources and expand veterans' access to mental health services. The passed legislation includes:  

  • The Vet Center Edibility Act (H.R.1812), sponsored by  Rep. Mike Levin (Calif.) to expand the eligibility to receive counseling from VA Vet Centers for members of the of the National Guard and Reserves or Coast Guard who served during emergency situations in the wake of a national emergency, major disaster, civil disorder or drug interdiction operation.

  • The Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act sponsored by Rep. Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), requires the Comptroller General to conduct an assessment of the responsibilities, workload, training, and vacancy rates of VA suicide prevention coordinators.

  • The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William "Bill" Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act (H.R.2326) sponsored by Rep. Mike Levin (Calif.) to improve the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) for service members returning to civilian life.

  • The Veterans' Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act (H.R.2045) sponsored by Rep. Mike Levin (Calif.) to prioritize veterans' employment, transition, housing and education benefits at the VA.

  • The Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act (H.R.1200) sponsored by Rep. Elaine Luria (Va.) provides COLA increase for FY2020 for various VA benefits.

  • The Veterans Care Quality Transparency Act (H.R.2372), sponsored by Rep. Lauren Underwood (Ill.), to direct the Comptroller General to conduct an assessment of all memoranda of understanding and memoranda of agreement between VA Under Secretary of Health and non-VA entities relating to suicide prevention and mental health services.

  • The FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act (H.R.2340), sponsored by Rep. Max Rose (N.Y.) to direct the VA to provide notice to Congress of any suicide or attempted suicide of a veteran in a Va. facility.

  • The Whole Veteran Act (H.R.2359), sponsored by Rep. Connor Lamb (Pa.) to direct the VA to submit to Congress a report on the VA advancing of whole health transformation.

  • H.R.1947, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe (Tenn.) to improve payments to flight schools under the Post 911 GI Bill.

These proposals now go to the Senate for further consideration.


In Loyalty, Protection, and Service,


Wayne Barron, FRA Branch 89


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