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Washington Update for Monday, February 13th, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Monday, February 13th 2017

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. Hope you are having a grand time.

Every time Washington seems to settle down a little a new drama hits. And that is what it was like this week. However we are getting the heads of the federal departments and agencies confirmed. (Of most concern to us the Secretaries of the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and the SBA have been confirmed. And all at once members of Congress have been proposing legislation at a terrific pace.  

 

TREA Applauds Confirmation of New VA Secretary Shulkin

 

Linda McMahon confirmed to lead the SBA

 

There is NO Legislation to Take Away Concurrent Receipt of Both Military Retirement Pay and VA Disability Compensation From Those Who Now Get It

 

No Quick Fix for Armed Services Problems

 

 

 

 

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TREA Applauds Confirmation of New VA Secretary Shulkin

 

By a vote of 100-0 Dr. David Shulkin was confirmed as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs Monday night. While not a veteran, TREA believes that he has the experience from his time as the CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center and the Undersecretary of Health for the VA to oversee the consolidation of the VA's community care programs into one streamlined "Choice" program that is going to serve America's veterans well.

We will be watching to make sure he keeps his commitment to reform the VA healthcare system.

 

 

Linda McMahon confirmed to lead the SBA

In a growing display of bipartisanship (or exhaustion) the Senate followed the unanimous confirmation of the VA Secretary with an 81-19 vote to confirm Linda McMahon to lead the SBA. MS McMahon was one of the co-founders and executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment.  The SBA is an important agency for veterans for starting independent small businesses after leaving the service.

 

 

There is NO Legislation to Take Away Concurrent Receipt of Both Military Retirement Pay and VA Disability Compensation From Those Who Now Get It

 

We have been receiving many inquiries from members regarding an issue that has apparently been going around the internet and getting many people upset.  This has to do with Concurrent Receipt.

We’ve been asked about a CBO report that is titled “Eliminate Concurrent Receipt of Retirement Pay and Disability Compensation for Disabled Veterans.”

This is NOT a proposal.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) puts out a report each year which lists government programs that could be eliminated or cut back if Congress wants to save money.  However, these are only for informational purposes to Congress.  They are Not proposals. 

They only would become a problem if a member of Congress decided to take information and have a bill drafted to do what the report says could be done.

TREA will let everyone know if this changes and someone in Congress or the Administration actually decides to propose this change in the law.  We would, of course, do all we can to stop it.

 

 

No Quick Fix for Armed Services Problems

At a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee last week the second highest ranking officers of the DoD’s Armed Services said that while they welcome the additional funding that has been proposed by the Trump Administration, it will likely take years to fix the Services’ readiness problems.  

The Vice Chief of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen Wilson, told the panel, “We’re doing our best to retain people, but when you’re flying equipment that’s 27-years old, on average, we’re flying a lot less. In the late ‘70s, at the very bottom of what we now call the ‘hollow force’, fighter pilots were flying about 15 sorties a month and about 20 hours. Today, we’re flying less hours and less sorties than we were then. We didn’t fix that problem overnight. There was a way out of it, and the way out of this starts first with manpower. With the right training, we can bring in the right weapons system support. With the weapon system support, we can increase the flying hours. With the flying hours, we reduce the op tempo. All of this takes time.”

Speaking about the Navy’s F-18s, Adm. Bill Moran, the vice chief of naval operations said, “They were designed for 6,000 hours. We’re extending the life on those Hornets into the 8,000-to-9,000 range. But it takes about twice the amount of man hours to fix one of those jets as it was designed to take, which gives you a pretty good indication how old they are. And the capacity in our depots has been diminished since 2013, when we had to furlough a lot of our workers … this is a reflection of how hard we’ve flown these jets over the last 15 years and that we’ve not bought enough new ones to replace them.”

And Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, said that only three of the Army’s 58 brigade combat teams are ready for immediate deployment.  “We will be too late to need,” he said. “Our soldiers will arrive too late, our units will require too much time to close the equipping and manning and training gaps. Hope is not a method and we cannot count on the enemy providing us that window of opportunity to close those gaps. The end result is excessive casualties, both to innocent civilians and to our forces that are already forward stationed to close the rest of the force required to accomplish the mission.”

The Vice-Chief of staff of the Marine Corps said an infusion of money this year just keeps the Marine Corps current.  But if we were to have a major combat operation, “…we’ll send a lot of pilots that don’t have the adequate training. Currency is not nirvana for a warfight, you need proficiency, and you only get that through multiple reps and sets.”

He also said that if the Marine Corps has to keep operating with the same funding that it had last year, which is currently the case, “We would stop flying in about July.” 

“The guys who are forward will still fly, but the training in the continental United States would cease.”

While retaining personnel was discussed, what was not discussed at the meeting were personnel benefits.  With the military soon operating under both new retirement and health care systems, it remains to be seen what effect they will have on recruiting and retaining qualified personnel.

The 1990’s were the last time there was discussion about a “hollow force” and it was at that time the services went to Congress to tell them they had to fix personnel compensation because they were having a hard time recruiting and retaining personnel.  Military people programs were grossly underfunded as a result of decades of cutbacks and it took ten years and major increases in compensation to fix retention problems. Congress had to give pay raises that exceeded private sector pay, eliminate out-of-pocket housing costs, and provide health care to retirees forced out of the military health care system. 

Fighting to protect the compensation and other benefits of military personnel is what TREA is all about and what we’ll keep fighting for.  As the new retirement and healthcare systems come online, we will carefully monitor what effect they have on keeping our military strong.

 

 

In recognition of African American History Month, the Department of Defense is sharing the stories of the brave men who so gallantly risked and gave their lives for others, even in times when others weren't willing to do the same in return.

This is the first story sent out by DoD.

                                                                        ****

Meet Sgt. William Carney: The First African-American Medal of Honor Recipient

By Katie Lange       DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2017 — Of the 3,498 service members who have received the Medal of Honor throughout U.S. history, only 88 have been black.

We'll start with the first black recipient of the award: Army Sgt. William H. Carney, who earned the honor for protecting one of the United States' greatest symbols during the Civil War -- the American flag.

Born Into Slavery

Carney was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1840. His family was eventually granted freedom and moved to Massachusetts, where Carney was eager to learn and secretly got involved in academics, despite laws and restrictions that banned blacks from learning to read and write.

Carney had wanted to pursue a career in the church, but when the Civil War broke out, he decided the best way he could serve God was by serving in the military to help free the oppressed.

In March 1863, Carney joined the Union Army and was attached to Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, the first official black unit recruited for the Union in the north. Forty other black men served with him, including two of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass' sons.

Within a few months, Carney's training would be put to the ultimate test during the unit's first major combat mission in Charleston, South Carolina.

Charge on Fort Wagner

On July 18, 1863, the soldiers of Carney's regiment led the charge on Fort Wagner. During the battle, the unit's color guard was shot. Carney, who was just a few feet away, saw the dying man stumble, and he scrambled to catch the falling flag.

Despite suffering several serious gunshot wounds himself, Carney kept the symbol of the Union held high as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner, urging his fellow troops to follow him. He planted the flag in the sand at the base of the fort and held it upright until his near-lifeless body was rescued.

Even then, though, he didn't give it up. Many witnesses said Carney refused to give the flag to his rescuers, holding onto it tighter until, with assistance, he made it to the Union's temporary barracks.

Promoted for His Actions

Carney lost a lot of blood and nearly lost his life, but not once did he allow the flag to touch the ground. His heroics inspired other soldiers that day and were crucial to the North securing victory at Fort Wagner. Carney was promoted to the rank of sergeant for his actions.
For his bravery, Carney was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900.

Carney's legacy serves as a shining example of the patriotism that Americans felt at that time, despite the color of their skin.

As for the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment in which Carney served? It was disestablished long ago, but reactivated in 2008. It now serves as a National Guard ceremonial unit that renders honorary funerals and state functions. It was even invited to march in President Barack Obama's inaugural parade.

 

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